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THE 
LAST 
THREE 
SOLDIERS 

WILLIAM-HENRY-SHELTON 



LtBRARY OF THE COMMANDERY OF 

THE STATE OF MASSACHUSETTS MILITARY 
ORDER OF THE LOYAL LEGION OF THE 
UNITED STATES 

CADET ARMORY, BOSTON 






w:.-^y . M„„£. 



S_ - .r^^ - 1 8 ?,0 



THE UNIVERSITY OF 

NORTH CAROLINA 

LIBRARY 




THE WILMER COLLECTION 

OF CIVIL WAR NOVELS 

PRESENTED BY 

RICHARD H. WILMER, JR. 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2010 with funding from 

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 



http://www.archive.org/details/lastthreesoldierOOshel 



THE 
LAST THREE SOLDIERS 



Hff 




'THERE THEY AKE! SEE? BY THE END OK THE HOUSE! 
EXCLAIMED PHILIP." (Set page %•&.) 



THE 
LAST THREE SOLDIERS 



BY 



WILLIAM HENRY SHELTON 




NEW YORK 
THE CENTURY CO. 

1897 



Copyriglit, 1896, 1897, by 
The Century Co. 



The DeVinne Press. 



WITH AN APOLOGY TO THE LITTLE SISTER 

THAT THE PLOT IS NOT MORE BLOOD-CURDLING AND 

HARROWING, THIS STORY OF WHAT MGHT HAVE BEEN 

IS AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED TO HIS YOUNG 

FRIENDS GUSSIE AND GENIE DEMAREST 

BY THE AUTHOR 



145 West FrFTT-FiFTH Stkeet, 
New Yokk, September 4, 1897 



CONTENTS 



Chaptkb pass 

I COMPLETIKG THE LiNE 1 

n The Old Man of the Mountain .... 10 
in The Mountain of the Twentieth Eed Pin . . 19 

rv A Day op Discoveries 23 

V The Cipher Code 36 

VI Messages of Dire Disasters 43 

Vn In which the Three Soldiers Make a Remarkable 

Resolution 51 

Vin "Which Ends in a Battle 62 

IX The Plateau Receives a Name 80 

X The Prisoners 93 

XI In which the Soldiers Make a Map . . . 104 

XII How the Bear Disgraced Himself . . . 121 

XIII How THE Bear Distinguished Himself . . . 136 

XIV Which Gives a Nearer View of the Neighbor 

called "Shifless" 152 

XV The Golden Mill 162 

XVI Which Shows that a Mishap is Not Always a 

Misfortune 178 

XVn How the Postmaster Saw a Ghost .... 190 

XVin Knowledge from Above 201 

vii 



viii CONTENTS 

Chapter page 

XIX The Cave of the Bats 216 

XX The Stained-glass Windows and the Prismatic 

Fowls 232 

XXI A Scrap of Paper 243 

XXII The Deserted House 265 

XXin Starvation 282 

XXTV The Eescue 298 

XXV Conclusion 315 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



"'There They Are! See? By the End of the House!' 
Exclaimed Philip" Frontispiece 

PAGE 

"It was a Mighty Fortress, Unscalable on its Western 

Side" 5 

Andy Tells the Story of the Old Man of the Mountain 15 
"Lieutenant Coleman was the First to Ascend, with 
the Telescope of the Station Strapped on his 

Shoulders" 25 

" Corporal Bromley Took Position with a Red Flag hav- 
ing A Large White Square in the Center" . . 37 
"Poor Philip, Left Alone, Burst into Tears" . . 53 

The Mother Bear Comes for her Cub 69 

" She Rose Suddenly on her Hind Feet and Dealt Him 
such a Whack as Nearly Broke his Ribs" . . 75 

Christening the Territory 87 

"The Fowls Hung about the Door" .... 107 
"Philip Made Up the Most Marvelous Stories, which 

WERE Recited before the Fire" 115 

"The Cask was Overturned so that the Yellow Pieces 

Poured Out upon the Floor" 131 

"They Drove Him Off with Sticks and Stones" . . 143 

ix 



X LIST OF ILLUSTEATIONS 

PAGE 

Making a Hundred-dollar Caster 149 

The Golden Mill 165 

Philip on the Edge op the Precipice .... 175 
"Philip could See the Hole in the Snow through 

which He Knew He must have Fallen" . . .183 
"Rushing Out from under the Trees, They Saw a Huge 

Balloon Sweeping over their Heads" . . . 207 
"Beyond the Illumination op his Torch He Saw Two 

Gleaming Eyes" 221 

Exploring the Cave op the Bats . . . . . 227 
" He was Down on his Hands and Knees upon the Turf " 247 

"The Scrap op Paper" 257 

The Deserted House 269 

The Grave op the Old Man op the Mountain . . 277 

The Beacon Fire 291 

" He could Only Cry Out, ' Fred ! Fred ! Here They 

Come!'" 303 

" They Looked Hardly Less Comical than Before " . . 317 



THE LAST THREE SOLDIEIIS 




THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 



CHAPTER I 

COMPLETING THE LINE 

IF Andy Zachary, the guide, had not mysteri- 
ously disappeared from his home within the 
month which followed the events of the night 
of the 2d of July in the year 1864, sooner or 
later the postmaster in the Cove on one side and the peo- 
ple in the valley on the other must have learned of the 
presence of the little colony on the summit of the gi'eat 
rock. 

On that particular night the cavalcade had come silently 
and secretly over the mountains by an unfrequented trail 
from the last station on Upper Bald, which towered above 
the Sandy River country. The troopers had followed the 
guide in single file along the ridges and down the stony 
trails, and now, when they emerged on the open Cove road 
for the first time, Andy fell back to the captain's side, in 
his butternut suit and mangj'- fur cap, with his long rifle 
slung behind his broad, square shoulders. 
1 1 



2 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

For that night his will was law above that of the cap- 
tain ; and before the three pack-mules at the end of the 
train had come out on the road, the head of the column 
had turned up a washout to the left, which presently 
brought the whole outfit into the shelter of a grove of 
pines alongside a deserted log cabin. It was just a trifle 
past midnight by the captain's watch, and the full moon 
which hung above the ridge to the west would light the 
Cove face of old Whiteside for yet an hour ; and during 
the darkness which must follow in the small hours of the 
morning there would be ample time to steal through the 
sleeping settlement and find a lodgment high up on 
the mountain which was the objective of the expedition. 

The troopers dismounted, and some lay down on the 
ground by the horses, while two kindled a fii'e in the stone 
chimney of the cabin and made coffee for the others. 
Corporal Bromley leaned a bundle of red-and- white flags 
against the door-post, and after turning aside with Lieu- 
tenant Coleman and Philip Welton to inspect their supphes 
on the pack-mules, the three joined the captain and the 
guide in the shadow of that end of the cabin vrhich looked 
toward the singular mountain standing boldly between the 
Cove and the valley beyond. That it was a mighty for- 
tress, unscalable on its western side, could be seen at a 
glance. The broad moonlight fell full on a huge boulder, 
whose mighty top, a thousand feet above the Cove, was 
fringed with a tall forest growth that looked in the dis- 
tance like stunted berry-bushes, and whose rounded granite 
side was streaked with black storm-stains where the rains 

RBC 
NoM 



COMPLETING THE LINE 3 

of centuries had coursed down. The moonlight picked out 
white spots underneath the huge folds which here and 
there belted the rock and protected its under face from 
the storms. These were the spots which the rills dribbled 
over and the torrents jumped clear of to meet their old 
tracks on the bulging rock below. It looked for all the 
world as if the smoke from huge fires had been curling 
against the mountain for ages, so black were the broad 
upward streaks and so white in the moon's light were the 
surrounding faces of the rock. Phil was the first to speak. 

" It must have been a giant that rolled it there," he said 
with a sigh of relief, and looking up at Andy, the guide. 

" Well, now, youngstei'," said Andy, " you 'd 'low so if 
you was round these parts in the springtime, when the 
sun loosens the big icicles hangin' on them black ledges, 
an' leaves 'em fall thunderin' into the Cove bottom." 

The Cove post-of&ce, whose long white roof crowned a 
knoU nearly in the center of a small tract within the 
mountain walls, Andy said, was at such times a great 
resort of the mountaineers, who came that they might 
watch the movement of the avalanches of snow and ice. 

Because of its wonderful formation this mountain was 
of abundant interest to all during their brief halt, but it 
was examined most carefully by the three young soldiers 
who were to be stationed on its crest. Philip Welton was 
the youngest of the three, only just past seventeen, and it 
was well known to his officers that if he had not been an 
oi'phan, without parents to object, he would never have 
been permitted to enlist even as a drummer-boy in the 2d 



4 THE LAST THEEE SOLDIERS 

Ohio, or in any capacity in any other command. The lad 
was of a gentle, affectionate nature, sensitive and refined, 
but his opportunities for education had been limited to the 
winter schools and the books he had read behind the flour- 
sacks in his uncle's mill. Some said his uncle was glad to 
be rid of him when he went away to the war. Like his 
friend and protector, Bromley, he had served with the 
colors on many a hard-fought field, and now the two had 
just been detached from then* regiment and assigned to 
duty under the command of Frederick Henry Coleman, a 
second lieutenant whose regiment was the 12th United 
States Cavalry, 

George Bromley, although the oldest of the three, was 
not yet twenty at the time he had enlisted at the beginning 
of the war, and he had left college in his junior year to 
enter the army. 

Lieutenant Coleman had gi-aduated from West Point 
the summer before, the very youngest member of his class. 
Although the three were mere boys at the time of their 
enlistment, each had entered the service through the 
strongest motives of patriotism, and each followed the 
fortunes of the national arms with an interest which 
showed itself in accordance with his personal character. 

At that time General Sherman's army was engaged in 
that series of battles which began at Marietta, Georgia, 
and, including the capture of Pine and Lost Moiintains, 
was soon to end in the victory at Kenesaw. The army of 
General Sherman was steadily advancing its lines in spite 
of the most heroic resistance of General Johnston, and 




"IT WAS A MIGHTY FUKIKESS. I NSCAL.^BLE ON ITS WESTEKN SIDE." 



COMPLETING THE LINE 7 

every new position gained was fortified by lines of log 
breastworks, sometimes thrown up in an hour after the 
regiments had stacked arms. These hastily constructed 
works, extending ten and twelve mUes across the thickly 
wooded country, were nowhere less than four feet high, 
with an opening under the top log for musketry, and out 
in front the tree-tops were thrown into a tangled mass, 
almost impossible for an attacking army to pass. These 
peculiar and original tactics of General Sherman enabled 
him to hold his front with a thin line of men, wliile the 
bulk of his troops were sent around one flank or the other 
to turn the enemy out of his works and so gain a new 
position. 

This was the sort of service Corporal Bromley and 
Philip Welton had been engaged in during the early part 
of the campaign ; and when they remembered the long 
rains and the deep mud through which the soldiers 
marched, and the wagon-trains foundered and stuck fast, 
they were not sorry to be mounted on good horses and 
riding over hard roads. 

Now that the moon had set, the troopers mounted again 
and moved quietly along the stony road, Andy Zachary, 
the guide, riding with the captain at the head of the 
column. The deep silence of the forest was on every hand, 
broken only by the clicking of iron shoes and the occa- 
sional foaming and plunging of a mountain stream down 
some laurel-choked gorge. The road wound and turned 
about, fording branches, mounting hills, and dipping down 
into hollows for an hour, until open fields began to appear 



8 THE LAST THEEE SOLDIERS 

bristling with girdled trees, and then the wooded side of 
the huge granite mountain shot up, towering over the left 
of the column. Soon thereafter the forest gave way to 
open country, and as the road swept round the base of the 
mountain it became a broad and sandy highway, so that 
when the horses trotted out there was only a light 
jangling of equipments,— sabers clicking on spurred heels, 
and the jingling of steel bits,— and when the pace was 
checked to a walk in passing some dark cabin only the 
creaking of the saddles was heard. 

So it was that the troopers stole silently through the 
valley of Cashiers, with the solemn mountain-peaks stand- 
ing like blind sentinels above the sparse settlement. Oc- 
casionally a drowsy house-dog roused himself to bark, and 
his fellow gave back an answering echo across the bushy 
fields ; but no one of the sleepers awoke under the patch- 
work quilts of many colors, and the long rifles hung un- 
distiirbed over the cabin doors. Then the troopers exulted 
in their cleverness, and laughed softly in their beards, 
while the night winds blew over the roofs of the dark 
cabins as they passed. 

After they were clear of the sandy road in the settle- 
ment, it was a long way up the mountain-side, and the 
iron shoes of the scrambling horses clicked on many a 
rolling stone, and some sleepy heads caught forty winks 
as they climbed and climbed. The cabins disappeared, 
and the fences, and the plow-steers in the hill pastures 
rattled their copper bells from below as the troop got 
higher; and so it was lonesome enough on the shaggy 



COMPLETING THE LINE 9 

momitain, and every trace of the habitation of man had 
disappeared long before they reached the rickety old 
bridge which spanned the deep gorge. 

Andy said that this bridge was the only possible way by 
which the top of the mountain could be reached, and that 
it had been built a great many years ago by a crazy old 
man who once lived on the mountain, but who was long 
since dead. It was still too dark to examine its condition. 
It could be seen that the near-by poles of the old railing 
had rotted away and fallen into the black chasm below. 
More than half of the bridge was swallowed up in the 
shadows of the foliage on the other bank. Away down in 
the throat of the gorge, where tall forest-trees grew and 
stretched their topmost limbs in vain to reach the level of 
the grass and flowers on the fields above them, a tinkling 
stream fell over the rocks with a far-away sound like the 
chinking of silver coins in a vault. The silence above and 
the murmur of the water below in the thick darkness were 
enough to make the stoutest hearts quail at the thought 
of crossing over by the best of bridges, so the captain 
prudently decided to wait for daylight ; and as the dis- 
tance they had gained above the settlement made the spot 
a safe encampment for a day, he ordered the troopers to 
unsaddle. 

After feeding the tired horses from the sacks of oats 
carried in front of the saddles, the men lay down on the 
ground and were soon sleeping soundly under the tall 
pines which grew above the bridge-head. 




CHAPTER II 

THE OLD MAN OF THE MOUNTAEST 

^HE captain and Andy lingered by the bridge- 
head, and the three boy-soldiers who were to 
be left behind next day, long as the march had 
been, felt no inclination for sleep. They were 
too much interested in watching for the first light by 
which they could examine this important approach to theii* 
temporary station. 

'' I should like to know something more of the crazy old 
man who built this crazy old bridge," said Philip, appeal- 
ing to Lieutenant Coleman. '' Why not ask the guide to 
teU us ? " 

Andy was by no means loath to tell the story so far as 
he knew it, which was plain enough to be seen by the de- 
liberate way in which he seated himself on a rock. Andy's 
audience reclined about him on the dry pine-needles. 

Mountaineers are not given to wasting their words, and 
by the extreme deliberation of the guide's preparations it 
was sufficiently evident that something important was 
coming. 

10 



THE OLD MAN OF THE MOUNTAIN 11 

" Thirty years back," said Andy, taking off his coonskin 
cap, and looking into it as if he read there the beginning 
of his story, " and for that matter down to five year ago, 
there was a man by the name of Jo-siah Woodring lived 
all by himself in a log cabin about half-way up this moun- 
tain, and just out o' sight of the trail we-all come up to- 
night. He owned right smart of timber-land and clearin', 
and made a crap o' corn every year, besides raisin' 'taters 
and cabbage and enions in his garden patch. He had a 
copper still hid away somewhere among the rocks, where 
he turned his corn crap into whisky ; and when Jo-siah 
needed anything in the line of store goods he hooked up 
his steer and went off, sometimes to Walhalla and some- 
times clean up to Asheville. 

" Now about a year after Jo-siah settled on his clearin', 
about the time he might have been twenty or thereabouts, 
when he come back from one of those same merchandisin' 
trips, instid of one steer he had a yoke, and along with him 
there was a little man a good thirty year older 'n Jo-siah, 
an' him walkin' a considerable piece behind the cart when 
they come through the settlement, same as if the two 
wa' n't travehn' together. The stranger was a dark-com- 
plected man, so the old folks say, and went just a trifle 
lame as he walked ; and as for his clothes, he was a heap 
smarter dressed than the mountain folks. Not that he 
looked to care for his dress, for he did n't, not he ; but 
through the dust of the road, which was white on him, hit 
was plain that he wore the best of store cloth. 

" As the cart was plumb empty, hit would seem that the 



12 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

little man fetched nothing along with him besides the 
clothes on his back, and such other toggery as he may 
have stowed away in the cowskin knapsack they do say 
he staggered under. If he had any treasure, he must 'a' 
toted hit in his big pockets, which, hit is claimed by some 
folks now livin', was stuffed out like warts on an apple- 
tree, and made him look as misshapen as he was small. 

"Now, whether anybody heard the chin kin' o' gold or 
not (which I 'm bettin' free they did n't), hit looked bad 
for Jo-siah that this partic'lar stranger should disappear in 
his company, for he was never seen ag'in in the settle- 
ment, or anywhere else, by any human for a good two 
year after the night he come trudgin' along behind the 
cart. Hit was nat'ral enough that the neighbor folks in 
time began to suspicion that Jo-siah had murdered the 
man for his money, and all the more when he made bold 
to show some foreign-lookin' gold pieces of which nobody 
knowed the vally. 

" They say how f eelin' run consid'ble high in the settle- 
ment that year, but hit was only surmisin' like, for there 
was no evidence that would hold water afore a juiy of any 
crime havin' been committed; and hit all ended in the 
valley folks avoidin' Jo-siah like his other name was Cain 
—and that sort o' treatment 'peared to suit him mighty 
well. Leastways, he went on with his plowin' and sowin' 
and stiUin' his crap, and whistled at the neglect of his 
neighbors, who never came to the clearin' any more, and in 
that very year he built this bridge, with or without the help 
of the other one. 



THE OLD ilAN OF THE MOUNTAIN 13 

" When the bridge was first seen, hit was stained by the 
weather, and moss had come to grow on the poles, and 
rotten leaves filled the chinks of the slab floor as if hit had 
never been new, and no one cared to ask any questions 
of Jo-siah, who kept his own counsel and seemed to live 
more alone than ever. The bridge was only another mys- 
tery connected with the life of this man that everybody 
shunned, and nobody suspicioned that hit had anything 
to do with the disappearance of the other one, who was 
counted for dead. 

" Now when day comes," said Andy, " you-all will see for 
yourselves that there is no timber on the other side o' this 
here gully tall enough to make string-pieces for a bridge 
of this length, and so the two string-pieces must have 
been cut on this side so as to fall across the chasm pretty 
much where they were wanted. Well, that was how it 
was ; and the story goes that the man who first saw the 
bridge reported, judging by the stumps, that the right- 
hand timber had been cut six months or more before the 
other one, which might have been just about the time 
Jo-siah brought the stranger home with him, and would 
easily account for his disappearance onto the summit of 
the mountain, for of course you understand he was not 
dead, and Jo-siah the Silent had no stain of blood on his 
conscience. 

" The mountain folks, however, thought different at that 
time, and looked cross-eyed at the painted cart drawed by 
the two slick critters on hits way to the low country. 
They was quick to take notice, too, when Jo-siah come 



14 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

back, that the cart carried more kegs than what hit had 
taken away, besides some mysterious-lookin' boxes and 
packages. Now this havin' continued endurin' several 
half-yearly trips, hit was the settled idee in the valley that 
Jo-siah was a-fm*nishin' of his cabin at a gait clear ahead 
of the insolence like of drivin' two steers to his cart when 
honest mountain folks could n't afford but one. Hit was 
suspicioned, moreover, that he was a-doin' this with the ill- 
got gold of the old man he had murdered, and the gals 
shrugged their shoulders as he passed, for no one of the 
gals as knew his goin's-on would set a foot in his cabin. 
It leaked out some way that Jo-siah had been investin' in 
books, which was the amazin' and crownin' extravagance 
of all, for hit was knowed that he could scarcely read a 
line of print or much more 'n write his own name. 

" These unjust suspicions of murder and robbery against 
an innocent man continued to rankle in the minds of the 
valley folks for more than two years, until a most sur- 
prising event took place on the mountain, to the great dis- 
appointment and annoyance of those gossips who had been 
loudest in their charges against Jo-siah Woodring. Hit 
happened that two bear-hunters from the settlement found 
themselves belated in the neighborhood of this very bridge 
one September night, and, bein' worn out with the chase, 
they sat down to rest in the shadow of an old chestnut, 
where they soon fell asleep. They awoke just before mid- 
night, and were about to start on down the mountain when 
they heard footsteps coming up the trail, and presently, 
dark as the night was, they saw a man with a keg on liis 



THE OLD MAN OF THE MOUNTAIN 17 

shoulder a-walkin' toward the bridge. The man was Jo- 
siah ; and after restin' his burden on a stump and wipin' 
the sweat from his forehead, he shouldered hit again and 
tramped on over the bridge. 

" The hunters were bold men and well armed, and, hav- 
ing had a good rest, they followed the man at a safe dis- 
tance until he came to the ledge of rocks which you-aU. 
will view for yourselves by sun-up, and there he was met 
by a man with a ladder, who stood out on the rocks above. 
The hunters noticed that the stranger was a small man, 
and just then the moon came out from behind a cloud, and 
they knew him for the little old man who was supposed to 
have been murdered. 

" When the hunters told what they 'd seen on the moun- 
tain, you may believe," said Andy, '' there was right smart 
excitement in Cashiers, and some disappointment to find 
that Jo-siah was neither a murderer nor a robber. They 
went on hating him aU the same for driving two steers to 
his cart and for having deceived them so long about the 
man on the mountain, and then they started the story 
that he was feedin' his prisoner on whisky, and that it 
was only a slow murder, after all. After that, one day, 
when Jo-siah had gone away to market, half a dozen of 
the valley men, with the two hunters to guide them, went 
up the mountain for the purpose of liberating that poor 
prisoner o' Jo-siah's. 

"They carried a ladder along, and when they had 
climbed up the ledge they found a little log shelter not fit 
for a sheep-hovel ; and as for the prisoner, he kept out of 



18 THE LAST THKEE SOLDIERS 

their way, for it was a pretty big place, with plenty of 
trees and rocks to hide among. Well, as the years went 
on, Jo-siah brought back less and less of suspicious pack- 
ages in his cart when he came up from the low country ; 
but it was known that he still went up the mountain on 
certain dark nights with a keg on his shoulder. The 
strange old man himself was seen at a distance from time 
to time, but at last his existence on the mountain came to 
be a settled fact, and the people ceased to worry about him. 

"Well, five years ago, as I said," continued Andy, 
" Jo-siah took sick with a fever, and come down into the 
settlement to see the doctor ; and he was that bad that the 
doctor had to go back with him to drive the cattle. He 
rallied after that so as to be about again, and even out at 
night ; but three months from the time he took the fever 
he died. The doctor was with him at the time, and the 
night before he breathed his last he told the doctor that 
the little man on the mountain was dead. After the funeral 
another party went up to the top of the mountain, and, sure 
enough, there was the grave, just outside of the miserable 
shelter he had lived in so long ; and it looks like he did, 
sure enough, drink liimseK to death, for there was no sign 
about the hovel that he ever cooked or ate ordinary food. 

" The strangest thing about the whole strange business," 
said Andy, getting on to his feet, " is that there was noth- 
ing in Jo-siah's poor cabin worth carrying away ; and if 
the old man did n't build this here bridge with his own 
hands thirty year ago, hit stands to reason that he helped 
Jo-siah." 




CHAPTER III 

THE MOUNTAIN OF THE TWENTIETH RED PIN 

FORTNIGHT before the events described in 
the opening chapter of this story, the topo- 
graphical officer attached to General Sherman's 
headquarters might have been seen leaning 
over a table in his tent, busily engaged in sticking red- 
headed pins into a great map of the Cumberland and 
Blue Ridge Mountains. The pins made an iiTegular 
line, beginning at Chattanooga, and extending through 
Tennessee and North Carolina at no great distance from 
the Georgia border. Altogether there were just twenty 
of these pins, and each pin pierced the top of a moun- 
tain whose position and altitude were laid down on the 
map. After this officer, who was a lieutenant-colonel, 
had spent half the night, by the light of guttering candles, 
in arranging and rearranging his pins, he sent in the morn- 
ing for the adjutant of a regiment of loyal mountaineers. 
Beginning with the first pin outside of Chattanooga, he 
requested the presence of a mountaineer who lived in the 
neighborhood of that particular peak. When the man re- 

19 



20 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

ported, the colonel questioned Mm about the accessibility 
of the mountain under the first pin, its distance from that 
under the second pin, and whether each peak was plainly 
Adsible from the other. The colonel's questions, which 
were put to the soldier in the shade of the fly outside the 
tent where the map lay, brought out much useful inf oi-ma- 
tion, and much more that was of no use whatever, because 
half the questions were intended to mislead the soldier and 
conceal the colonel's purpose. Sometimes he changed a 
pin after the soldier went away ; and at the end of three 
days of interviewing and shifting the positions of his pins, 
the twentieth red head was firmly fixed above the point 
laid down on the map as Whiteside Mountain. StOl a 
little farther along a blue-headed pin was set up, and then 
the work of the topographical officer of the rank of lieu- 
tenant-colonel was done. 

These pins represented a chain of signal-stations, nine- 
teen of which the captain of cavalry, with Andy Zachaiy 
to guide him, had now established one after the other, 
with as much secrecy as the lieutenant-colonel had em- 
ployed in selecting the positions. And now the gray dawn 
was coming on the side of the twentieth mountain as Andy 
finished his story. In fact, as the last word fell from his 
lips a lusty cock tied on one of the pack-saddles set up a 
shrill crow to welcome the coming day. Although tall 
pines grew thick about the bridge-head where the troopers 
were stiU sleeping, it was light enough to see that only 
low bushes and gnarled chestnuts grew on the other bank. 
The noisy branch kept up its ceaseless churning and 



THE MOUNTAIN OF THE TWENTIETH RED PIN 21 

splashing among the rocks far down in the throat of the 
black gorge, and the great height and surprising length 
of its single span made the crazy old bridge look more 
treacherous than ever. It swayed and trembled with the 
weight of the captain by the time he had advanced three 
steps from the bank, so that he came back shaking his 
head in alarm. By this time the men were afoot, and 
Andy asked for an ax, which at the first stroke he buried 
to its head in the rotten string-piece. 

'^ Just what I feared," said the captain. " Do you think 
I am going to trust my men on that rotten structure ? " 

Andy said nothing in reply as he kicked off with his 
boot a huge growth of toadstools, together with the bark 
and six inches of rotten wood from the opposite side of the 
log. Then he struck it again with the head of the ax such 
a blow that the old sticks of the railing and great sections 
of bark fell in a shower upon the tree-tops below. The 
guide saw only consternation in the faces of the men as he 
looked around, but there was a smile on his own. 

*' Hit may be old," said Andy, throwing down the ax, 
" but there is six inches of tough heart into that log, and 
I 'd trust hit with a yoke o' cattle." With that he strode 
across to the other side, and coming back jounced his 
whole weight on the center, with only the effect of rattling 
another shower of bark and dry fungi into the gorge. 

'' Bring me one of the pack-mules," cried Andy ; and 
presently, when the poor brute arrived at the head of the 
old causeway, it settled back on its stubborn legs and re- 
fused to advance. At this the guide tied a grain-sack over 



22 THE LAST THEEE SOLDIERS 

the animars eyes and led him safely across. Lieutenant 
Coleman led over the second mule by the same device, and 
Bromley the third. By this time it was broad daylight, 
and the captain detailed three men to help in the unpack- 
ing. These he sent over one at a time, so that after him- 
self Phihp was the last to cross. 

Beyond was an open field where blue and yellow flowers 
grew in the long, wiry grass, which was wet with the dew. 
This grass grew up through a thick mat of dead stalks, 
which was the withered growth of many years. Under the 
trees and bushes the leaves had rotted in the rain where 
they had fallen, or in the hollows where they had been 
tossed by the wandering winds. There was not a sign of 
a trail, nor a gu'dled tree, nor a trace of fire, nor any 
evidence that the foot of man had ever trodden there. 
The httle party seemed to have come into an unknown 
country, and after crossing the open field they continued 
climbing up a gentle ascent, winding around rocks and 
scraggly old chestnut-trees, until they arrived under the 
ledge which supported the upper plateau. This was found 
to extend from the boulder face on the Cove side across to 
a mass of shelving rocks on the Cashiers valley front, and 
was from thirty to fifty feet in height, of a perpendicular 
and bulging fold in the smooth granite. After a short 
exploration a place was found where the ledge was broken 
by a shelf or platform twenty feet from the ground ; and 
just here, in the leaves and grass below, lay the rotted 
fragments of a ladder which had doubtless been used by 
the old man of the mountain himself. 




CHAPTER IV 

A DAY OF DISCOVERIES 

■HILE Andy, with the help of the detail, was cut- 
ting and notching the timber for ladders, the 
captain and the three young soldiers of the 
station made a breakfast, standing, from their 
haversacks and canteens, and looked about them over the 
wild country at their feet, and off at the blue peaks which 
rose above and around the valley of Cashiers, and then at 
the ridges in the opposite direction, drawn like huge fur- 
rows across the western horizon, showing fainter and 
fainter in color until the blue of the land was lost in the 
blue of the sky. 

The men worked with a will, so that by ten o'clock the 
main ladder, which was just a chestnut stick deeply 
notched on the outer side, was firmly set in the ground 
against the face of the cliff. The landing-shelf was found 
to extend into a natural crevice, so that the short upper 
ladder was set to face the bridge, and so as to be entirely 
concealed from the view of any one approaching from 
below, 

23 



24 THE LAST THEEE SOLDIERS 

When everything was in readiness, Lieutenant Coleman 
was the first to ascend, with the powerful telescope of the 
station strapped on his shoulders ; and the others quickly 
followed, except the three troopers who remained behind 
to unpack the mules and bring up the rations and outfit 
for the camp. 

At the point where they landed there was Httle to be 
seen of the top of the mountain beyond a few stunted 
chestnuts which clung to the rocks and were dwarfed and 
twisted by the wind ; and nearly as many dead blue hmbs 
lay about in the thin grass as there were live green ones 
forked against the sky. There was the suggestion of a 
path bearing away to the left, and following this they 
came to a series of steps in the rocks, partly natural and 
partly artificial, which brought them on to a higher level 
where an extended plateau was spread out before them. 
On the western border they saw the line of trees overhang- 
ing the Cove side— the same that had looked like berry- 
bushes the night before from the cabin where they had 
halted for the moon to go down. From this point the 
crest of the Upper Bald was in plain view across the 
Cove, but, anxious as they were to open communication 
with the other mountain, the flags had not yet come up, 
and there was nothing left for them to do but continue 
their exploration. It was observed, however, that the 
trees overhanging the Cove would conceal the flagging 
operations from any one who might live on the slopes of 
the mountains in that direction, and, moreover, that by 
going a short distance along the ridge to the right a fine 




' LIEUTEXAXT COLEMAX WAS THE FIKST TO ASCEND, WITH THE TELESCOPE OF 
THE STATION STKAPPED ON HIS SHOULDERS." 



A DAY OF DISCOVERIES 27 

backing of dark trees would be behind the signal-men. 
Philip would have scampered off to explore and discover 
things for himself, but the captain restrained him and 
directed that the party should keep together. Andy car- 
ried his long rifle, and Philip and Bromley had brought 
up their carbines, so that they were prepared for any game 
they might meet, even though it were to dispute progress 
with a bear or panther. Since they had come up the 
ladders the region was all quite new to Andy, and he no 
longer pretended to guide them. 

Back from the last ridge the ground sloped to a lower 
level, much of which was bare of trees and so protected 
from the wind that a rich soil had been made by the ac- 
cumulation and decay of the leaves. At other points 
there were waving grass and clumps of trees, which latter 
shut off the view as they advanced, and opened up new 
vistas as they passed beyond them. It could be seen in 
the distance, however, that the southern end of the plateau 
was closed in by a ledge parallel to and not unlike that 
which they had already scaled, except that it was much 
more formidable in height. 

There was a stream of clear, cold water that was found 
to come from a great bubbling spring. It broke out of 
the base of this southern ledge, and after flowing for some 
distance diagonally across the plateau tumbled over the 
rocks on the Cashiers valley side and disappeared among 
the trees. 

After inspecting this new ledge, which was clearly an 
impassable barrier in that direction, and as effectually 

2* 



28 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

guarded the plateau on that side as the precipices which 
formed its other boundaries, the captain and his party- 
turned back along the stream of water, for a plentiful 
supply of water was more to be prized than anything they 
could possibly discover on the mountain, 

" There is one thing," said Andy, as they walked along 
the left bank of the stream, " that you-all can depend no. 
Risin' in the spring as hit does, that branch will flow on 
just the same, summer or winter." 

"Probably," said Lieutenant Coleman; "but then, you 
know, we are not concerned about next winter." 

A little farther on a rose-bush overhung the bank, and 
at the next turn they found a grape-vine trailing its green 
fruit across a rude trellis, which was clearly artificial. A 
few steps more and they came to a foot-log flattened on 
the top ; and, although it tottered under them, they crossed 
to the other side, and coming around a clump of chinkapin- 
bushes, they found themselves at the door of a poor hut of 
logs, whose broken roof was open to the rain and sun. 
The neglected fireplace was choked with leaves, and weeds 
and bushes grew out of the cracks in the rotting floor ; 
and, surely enough, in one dry corner stood the very 
brown keg that Josiah Woodring had brought up the 
mountain. In the midst of the dilapidation and the rot- 
ting wood about it, it was rather surprising that the cask 
should be as sound as if it were new, and the conclu- 
sion was that it had been preserved by what it originally 
contained. 

Just then there was a cry from PhiHp, who had gone to 



A DAY OF DISCOVEEIES 29 

the rear of the hovel ; and he was found by the others lean- 
ing over the grave of the old man of the mountain, and 
staring at the thick oak headboard, which bore on the side 
next the cabin these words : 

ONE WHO WISHES TO BE FORGiOTTEN. 

The letters were incised deep in the hard wood, and seemed 
to have been cut with a pocket-knife. It was evident from 
the amount of patient labor expended on the letters that 
the work had been done by the unhappy old man himself, 
perhaps years before he died. Of course it had been set 
up by Josiah, who must have laid him in his last resting- 
place. 

" That looks like Jo-siah was no Har, any more than he 
was a murderer and robber," said Andy 5 '' and if the little 
man could live up here twenty-five years, I reckon you 
young fellers can get along two months." 

A spot for camp was selected a few rods up the stream 
from the poor old cabin and grave. This was at a con- 
siderable distance from the ridge where the station was to 
be, but it had two advantages to balance that one incon- 
venience. In the first place, it was near the water, and 
then no smoke from the cook-fire would ever be seen in 
the vaUey below. Accordingly, the stores were ordered to 
be brought to this point, and Corporal Bromley hurried 
away to the head of the ladders to detain such articles as 
would be needed at the station on the ridge. Below the 
ledge the mides could be seen quietly browsing the grass, 
and, to the annoyance of Lieutenant Coleman, a blue haze 



30 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

was softly enveloping the distant mountains, as in a day 
in Indian summer, so that it was no longer possible to 
think of communicating with the next station, which was 
ten miles away. 

That being the ease, the afternoon was spent in pitching 
the tents and making the general arrangements of the 
camp. Owing to the difficulty of transportation, but the 
barest necessaries of camp life were provided by the gov- 
ernment ; and, notwithstanding his rank, Lieutenant Cole- 
man had only an '^ A " tent, and Bromley and Philip two 
pieces of shelter-tent and two rubber ponchos. It was 
quickly decided by the two soldiers to use their pieces of 
tent to mend the roof of the hut of the old man of the 
mountain, and to store the rations as well as to make their 
own quarters therein. From the Commissary Department 
their supplies for sixty days consisted precisely of four 
50-pound boxes of hard bread, 67 pounds 8 ounces bacon, 
103 pounds salt beef, 27 pounds white beans, 27 pounds 
dry peas, 18 pounds rice, 12 pounds roasted and ground 
coffee, 8 ounces tea, 27 pounds light-brown sugar, 7 quarts 
vinegar, 21 pounds 4 ounces adamantine candles, 7 pounds 
4 ounces bar soap, 6 pounds 12 ounces table-salt, and 8 
ounces pepper. The medical chest consisted of 1 quart of 
commissary whisky and 4 ounces of quinine. Besides the 
flags and telescope for use on the station, their only tools 
were an ax and a hatchet. On ordinary stations it was the 
rule to furnish lumber for building platforms or towers, 
but here they were provided with only a coil of wire and 
ten pounds of nails, and if platforms were necessary to get 



A DAY OF DISCOVERIES 31 

above the surrounding trees they must rely upon such 
timber as they could get, and upon the ax to cut away 
obstructions. Fortunately for this particular station, they 
could occupy a commanding ridge and send their messages 
from the ground. 

Philip had by some means secured a garrison flag, which 
was no part of the regular equipment ; and through Andy 
they had come into possession of a dozen live chickens 
and a bag of corn to feed them. On the afternoon before 
the departure of the troopers, the captain, who had now 
estabhshed the last of the line of stations, confided to 
Lieutenant Coleman his final directions and cautions. 
He asked Andy to point out Chestnut Knob, which was 
the mountain of the blue pin, and whose bald top was in 
full view to the right of Rock Mountain, and not more 
than eight miles away in a southeasterly direction, and, as 
Andy said, just on the border of the low country in South 
Carohna. This was the mountain, the captain informed 
Lieutenant Coleman, from which in due time, if everything 
went well in regard to a certain mihtary movement, he 
would receive important messages to flag back along the 
line. 

What this movement was to be was still an official 
secret at headquarters, and Lieutenant Coleman would be 
informed by flag of the time when he would be required 
to be on the lookout for a communication from the moun- 
tain of the blue pin. At the close of his directions, the 
captain, standing very stiff on his heels and holding his 
cap in his hand, made a little speech to Lieutenant Cole- 



32 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

man, in which he complimented him for his loyalty and 
patriotic devotion to the flag, and reminded him that in 
assigning him to the last station the commanding general 
had thereby shown that he reposed especial confidence in 
the coui'age, honor, and integrity of Lieutenant Frederick 
Henry Coleman of the 12th Cavalry, and in the intelli- 
gence and obedience of the young men who were asso- 
ciated with him. This speech, delivered just as the 
shadows were deepening on the lonely mountain-top, 
touched the hearts of the three boys who were so soon to 
be left alone, and was not a whit the less impressive be- 
cause Andy plucked off his coonskin cap and cried, in his 
homely enthusiasm, that " them was his sentiments to the 
letter ! " 

It was understood that there should be no signaling by 
night, and no lights had been provided for that purpose ; 
so that, there being nothing to detain them on the plateau, 
they decided to accompany the captain and Andy back to 
the bridge and see the last of the escort as it went down 
the mountain. 

Two of the troopers, contrary to orders, had during the 
day been as far as the deserted cabin of Josiah Woodring, 
and one of these beckoned Philip aside and told him where 
he would find a sack of potatoes some one had hidden 
away on the other side of the gorge, which, with much 
disgust, he described as the only booty they had found 
worth bringijig away. 

So great is the love of adventure among the young that 
there was not one of the troopers but envied his three 



A DAY OF DISCOVEEIES 33 

comrades who were to be left behind on the mountain ; but 
it was a friendly rivalry, and, in view of the possibilities 
of wild game, they insisted upon leaving the half of their 
cartridges, which were gladly accepted by Philip and 
Bromley. 

The moon was obscured by thick clouds, and an hour 
before midnight the horses were saddled, and with some 
serious, but more jocular, words of parting, the troopers 
started on the march down the mountain, most of them 
hampered by an additional animal to lead. The captain 
remained to press the hand of each of the three young 
soldiers, and when at last he rode away and they turned 
to cross the frail old bridge, whose unprotected sides could 
scarcely be distinguished in the darkness, they began to 
realize that they were indeed left to their own resources, 
and to feel a trifle lonely, as you may imagine. 

Before leaving that side of the gorge, however. Corporal 
Bromley had shouldered their precious cartridges, which 
had been collected in a bag, and on the other side Philip 
secured the sack of potatoes ; and thus laden they trudged 
away across the open field and among the rocks and 
bushes, guided by the occasional glimpses they had of the 
cliff fringed with trees against the leaden sky. It was of 
the first importance that the cartridges should be kept dry, 
and to that end they hurried along at a pace which scat- 
tered them among the rocks and left but little opportunity 
for conversation. Lieutenant Coleman was in advance, 
with Philip's carbine on his arm ; next came Corporal 
Bromley, with the cartridges ; and a hundred yards behind, 



34 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

Philip was stumbling along with the sack of potatoes on 
his shoulder. They had advanced in this order until the 
head of the straggling column was scarcely more than a 
stone's throw from the cliff, when a small brown object, 
moving in the leaves about the foot of the ladder, uttered 
a low growl and then disappeared into the deeper shadow 
of the rock. At the same moment the rain began to fall, 
and Corporal Bromley stepped one side to throw his bag 
of cartridges into the open trunk of a hollow chestnut. 
While he was thus engaged, with the double pui-pose of 
freeing his hands and securing the cartridges from the 
possibility of getting wet, his carbine lying on the ground 
where he had hastily thrown it. Lieutenant Coleman jBred 
at random at the point where he had indistinctly seen the 
moving object. The darkness had increased with the 
rain, and as the report of the carbine broke the quiet of 
the mountain a shadowy ball of fur scampered by him, 
scattering the leaves and gravel in its flight. The mys- 
terious object passed close to Bromley as he was groping 
about for his weapon, and the next moment there was a 
cry from Philip, who had been thi*own to the ground and 
his potatoes scattered over the hillside. 

"Whatever it was," said Philip, when he presently 
came up laughing at his mishap, "■ I don't believe it eats 
potatoes, and I will gather them up in the morning." 

As it was too dark for hunting, and the cartridges were 
in a safe place. Lieutenant Coleman and Corporal Bromley 
slung their carbines and followed Philip, who was the first 
to find the foot of the ladder. 



A DAY OF DISCOVERIES 35 

It was not so dark but that they made their way safely 
to the camp, and, weary with the labors of the day, they 
were soon fast asleep in their blankets, unmindful of the 
rain which beat on the " A " tent and on the patched roof 
of the cabin of the old man of the mountain. 




CHAPTER V 

THE CIPHER CODE 

|N the morning of July 4 the sun rose in a cloud- 
less sky above the mountains, and the at- 
mosphere was so clear that the most remote 
objects were unusually distinct. The condi- 
tions were so favorable for signaling that, after a hm-ried 
breakfast, the three soldiers hastened to the point on the 
ridge which they had selected for a station. Corporal 
Bromley took position with a red flag having a large white 
square in the center, and this he waved slowly from right 
to left, while Lieutenant Coleman adjusted his spy-glass, 
resting it upon a crotched limb which he had driven into 
the ground ; and at his left Philip sat with a note-book and 
pencil in hand, ready to take down the letters as Lieutenant 
Coleman called them off. There are but three motions used 
in signaling. When the flag from an upright position is 
dipped to the right, it signifies 1 ; to the left, 2 ; and for- 
ward, 3. The last motion is used only to indicate that the 
end of the word is reached. Twenty-six combinations of 
the figures 1 and 2 stand for the letters of the alphabet. 

36 




'COKPOKAL BKOMLEY TOOK POSITION WITH A KED FLAG HAVING A LARGE 
WHITE SQUARE IN THE CENTEE." 



THE CIPHER CODE 



39 



It is not an easy task to learn to send messages by these 
combinations of the figures 1 and 2, and it is harder still 
to read the flags miles away thi-ough the telescope. The 
thi'ee soldiers had had much practice, however, and could 
read the funny wigwag motions like print. K any two 
boys care to learn the code, they can telegraph to each 
other from hill to hiU, or from farm to farm, as weU as 
George and Philip. You wiU see that the vowels and 
the letters most used are made with the fewest motions— 
as, one dip of the flag to the left (2) for I, and one to the 
right (1) for T. Z is four motions to the right (1111) ; and 
here is the alphabet as used in the signal-service : 



A, 



11, 



12, 



B, 1221, 



c, 


212, 


D, 


111, 


E, 


21, 


F, 


1112, 


G, 


1122, 


H, 


211, 


I, 


2, 


J, 


2211, 


K, 


1212, 


L, 


112, 


M, 


2112, 


N, 


22 





2121, 


Q, 


2122, 


R, 


122, 


s, 


121, 


T, 


1, 


u, 


221, 


V, 


2111, 


W, 


2212, 


X, 


1211, 


Y, 


222, 


z, 


1111, 


&, 


2222, 


ing, 


1121, 



tion, 2221. 

When the flag stops at an upright position, it means the 
end of a letter— as, twice to the right and stop (11) means 
A ; one dip forward (3) indicates the end of a word ; 33, 



40 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

the end of a sentence ; 333, the end of a message. Thus 
11-11-11-3 means "All right; we understand over here; 
go ahead"; and 11-11-11-333 means "Stop signaling." 
Then 212-212-212-3 means " Repeat ; we don't understand 
what you are signaling"; while 12-12-12-3 means "We 
have made an error, and if you will watch we will give the 
message to you correctly." 

Now, if Lieutenant Coleman wanted to say to another 
signal-oflBcer " Send one man," the sentence would read in 
figures, " 121, 21, 22, 111, 3, 12, 22, 21, 3, 2112, 11, 22, 33." 
But in time of war the signalmen of the enemy could read 
such messages, and so each party makes a cipher code 
of its own, more or less difficult; and the code is often 
changed. So if Lieutenant Coleman's cipher code was 
simply to use for each letter sent the fourth letter later in 
the alphabet, his figures would have been quite different, 
and the letters they stood for would have read : 

W-i-r-li s-r-i q-e-r. 
S-e-n-d o-n-e m-a-n. 

So, after fifteen minutes of waiting, during which time the 
flag in Corporal Bromley's hand made a great rustling and 
flapping in the wind, moving from side to side. Lieutenant 
Coleman got his glass on the other flag, ten miles away, 
and found it was waving 11-11-11-3— "All right." Cor- 
poral Bromley then sent back the same signal, and sat 
down on the bank to rest. What Lieutenant Coleman 
saw at that distance was a little patch of red dancing 
about on the object-glass of his telescope ; he could not see 



THE CIPHER CODE 41 

even the man who waved it, or the trees behind him. 
Promptly at Bromley's signal "All right," the little object 
came to a rest ; and when it presently began again, Lieu- 
tenant Coleman called off the letters, which Philip repeated 
as he entered them in the book. For an hour and a half 
the messages continued repeating all the mass of figures 
which had come over the line during the last three days. 

When the mountain of the nineteenth red pin had said 
its say as any parrot might have done, for it was abso- 
lutely ignorant of the meaning of the figures it received 
and passed on (for the reason that it had no of&eer with 
the cipher). Lieutenant Coleman took from his pocket a 
slip of paper on which he had already arranged his return 
message to Chattanooga. When this had been despatched, 
the lieutenant took the note-book from Philip, and went 
away to his tent to cipher out the meaning of the still 
meaningless letters. 

They were sufficiently eager to get the latest news, for 
they knew that the army they had just left had been ad- 
vancing its works and fighting daily since the twenty- 
second day of June for the possession of Kenesaw 
Mountain. The despatches were translated in the order 
in whicb they came, so that it was a good half -hour before 
Lieutenant Coleman appeared with a radiant face to say 
that General Sherman had taken possession of Kenesaw 
Mountain on the day before. " And that is not all," he 
cried, holding up his hand to restrain any premature out- 
burst of enthusiasm. " Listen to this ! ' The " Alabama " 
was sunk by the United States steamer '' Kearsarge " on 



42 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

the nineteentli day of June, three miles outside the harbor 
of Cherbourg, on the coast of France.' " 

Corporal Bromley was not a demonstrative man, yet the 
blood rushed to his face, and there was a glittering light 
in his eyes which told how deeply the news touched him ; 
but Philip, on the contrary, was wild with delight, and 
danced and cheered and turned somersaults on the grass. 




CHAPTER VI 

MESSAGES OF DIRE DISASTERS 

■HAT a pity," cried Philip, " that the boys on the 
next mountain should be left in ignorance of 
these victories when we could so easily send 
them the news without using the cipher— and 
this the Fourth of July, too ! " 

That form of communication, however, was strictly for- 
bidden by the severe rules of the service, and it was the 
fate of Number 19 to remain in the dark, like all the 
other stations on the line, except the first and tenth and 
their own, which alone were in charge of commissioned 
officers who held the secret of the cipher. 

The news of the destruction of the " Alabama," which 
had been the terror of the National merchant-vessels for 
two years, was of the highest importance, and would cause 
great rejoicing throughout the North. Although the 
battle with the '' Kearsarge " had taken place on June 19, 
it must be borne in mind that this period was before the 
permanent laying of the Atlantic cable, and European 
news was seven and eight days in crossing the ocean by 

43 



44 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

the foreign steamers, and might be three days late before 
it started for this side, in case of an event which had hap- 
pened three days before the sailing of the steamer. After 
several unsuccessful attempts, a cable had been laid be- 
tween Europe and America in 1858, three years before the 
beginning of the great war, and had broken a few weeks 
after some words of congratulation had passed between 
Queen Victoria and President Buchanan. Some people 
even believed that the messages had been invented by the 
cable company, and that telegraphic communication had 
never been established at all along the bed of the ocean. 
At all events, news came by steamer in war-times, and 
so it happened that these soldiers, who had been three 
days in the wilderness, heard with great joy on July 4 of 
the sinking of the "Alabama," which happened on the 
coast of France on June 19. 

The garrison flag was raised on a pole over the '* A " 
tent, and the day was given up to enjoyment, which ended 
in supping on a roast fowl, with such garnishings as their 
limited larder would furnish. On this occasion Lieutenant 
Coleman waived his rank so far as to preside at the head 
of the table,— which was a cracker-box,— and after the 
feast they walked together to the station and sat on the 
rocks in the moonlight to discuss the military situation. 

If General Grant had met with some rebuffs in his 
recent operations against Petersburg in Virginia, he was 
steadily closing his iron grasp on that city and Richmond ; 
and not one of these intensely patriotic young men for 
a moment doubted the final outcome. Philip and Lieu- 



MESSAGES OF DIRE DISASTERS 45 

tenant Coleman had been much depressed by the recent 
disaster, and the news of the morning greatly raised their 
spirits. If Bromley was less excitable than his compan- 
ions, the impressions he received were more enduring; 
but, on the other hand, he would be slower to recover 
from a great disappointment. 

" The reins are in a firm hand at last," said Lieutenant 
Coleman, referring to the control then recently assumed 
by General Grant, " and now everj^thing is bound to go 
forward. With Grant and Sheridan at Richmond, Farra- 
gut thundering on the coast, the ^ Alabama' at the bottom 
of the sea, and •Uncle Billy forcing his lines nearer and 
nearer to Atlanta, we are making brave progress. I be- 
lieve, boys, the end is in sight." 

" Amen ! " said Corporal Bromley. 

" Hurrah ! " cried Philip. 

"You boys," continued Lieutenant Coleman, "have en- 
listed for three years, while I have been educated to the 
profession of arms ; but if this rebellion is not soon put 
down I shall be ashamed of my profession and leave it for 
some more respectable calling." 

So they continued to talk untU late into the night, 
cheered by the good news they had heard, and very hopeful 
of the future. 

The following day was foggy, and Phihp went down the 
ladder to bring up the potatoes, which he had quite for- 
gotten in the excitement of the day before. Bromley, too, 
paid a visit to the tree where he had thrown in the car- 
tridges ; but the opening where he had cast in the sack was 



46 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

SO far from the ground that it would be necessary to use 
the ax to recover it, and as he could find no drier or safer 
storehouse for the extra ammunition, he was content to 
leave it there for the present. Lieutenant Coleman busied 
himseK in writing up the station journal in a blank-book 
provided for that purpose. 

When Philip found his potatoes, which had been scat- 
tered on the ground where he had been thrown down in 
the darkness by the mysterious little animal, he was at 
first disposed to leave them, for they were so old and 
shrunken and small that he began to think the troopers 
had been playing a joke on him. But when he looked 
again, and saw the small sprouts peeping out of the eyes, 
a new idea came to him, and he gathered them carefully 
up in the sack. He bethought himself of the rich earth in 
the warm hollow of the plateau, where the sun lay all day, 
and where vegetation was only smothered by the coating 
of dead leaves; and he saw the delightful possibility of 
having new potatoes, of his own raising, before they were 
relieved from duty on the mountain. What better amuse- 
ment could they find in the long summer days, after the 
morning messages were exchanged on the station, than to 
cultivate a small garden? If he had had the seeds of 
flowers, he might have thrown away the wilted potatoes ; 
but next to the cultivation of flowers came the fruits of 
the earth, and if his plantation never yielded anything, it 
would be a pleasure to watch the vines grow. Lieutenant 
Coleman readily gave his consent ; and, after raking off 
the carpet of leaves with a forked stick, the soft, rich soil 



MESSAGES OF DIRE DISASTERS 47 

lay exposed to the sun, so deep and mellow that a piece of 
green wood, flattened at the end like a wedge, was suffi- 
cient to stir the earth and make it ready for planting. 
Philip cut the potatoes into small pieces, as he had seen 
the farmers do, and with the help of the others, who be- 
came quite interested in the work, the last piece was buried 
in the ground before sundown. 

On the following morning the flags announced that, in 
a cavalry raid around Petersburg, General Wilson had 
destroyed sixty miles of railroad, and that forty days would 
be requii'ed to repair the damage done to the Danville and 
Richmond road. During the next three days there was no 
news worth recording, and the fever of gardening having 
taken possession of Philip, he planted some of the corn 
they had brought up for the chickens, and a row each of 
the peas and beans from their army rations. 

The 10th of July was Sunday, the first since they had 
been left alone on the mountain ; and Lieutenant Coleman 
required his subordinates to clean up about the camp, and 
at nine o'clock he put on his sword and inspected quar- 
ters like any company commander. After this ceremony, 
PhUip read a psalm or two from his prayer-book, and 
Corporal Bromley turned over the pages of the Blue Book, 
which was the Revised Army Regulations of 1863. These 
two works constituted their limited library. 

There was a dearth of news in the week that followed, 
and what little came was depressing to these enthusiastic 
young men, to whom the temporary inactivity of the army 
which they had just left was insupportable. 



48 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

On Monday morning, however, came the cheering news 
that General Sherman's army was again in motion, and 
had completed the crossing of the Chattahoochee River 
the evening before. 

On the 19th they learned that General Sherman had 
established his lines within five miles of Atlanta, and that 
the Confederate general Johnston had been relieved by 
General Hood. 

The messages by flag were received every day, when the 
weather was favorable, between the hours of nine and ten 
in the morning ; and now that the campaign had reopened 
with such promise of continued activity, the days, and 
even the nights, dragged, so feverish was the desire of the 
soldiers to hear more. They wandered about the mountain- 
top and discussed the military situation ; but, if anything 
more than another tended to soothe their nerves, it was 
the sight of their garden, in which the corn and potatoes 
were so far advanced that each day seemed to add visibly 
to their growth. 

On the morning of the 21st they learned that Hood had 
assaulted that flank of the intrenched line which was com- 
manded by General Hooker, and that in so doing the enemy 
had been three times gallantly repulsed. The new Con- 
federate general was less prudent than the old one, and 
they chuckled to think of the miles of log breastworks 
they knew so well, at which he was hurling his troops. 
General Sherman was their military idol, and they knew 
how weU satisfied he would be with this change in the 
tactics of the enemy. 



MESSAGES OF DIRE DISASTERS 49 

By this time it had become their habit to remain near 
the station while Lieutenant Coleman figured out the 
messages, each of which he read aloud as soon as he com- 
prehended its meaning. 

On Saturday morning, July 23, while Corporal Bromley 
leaned stolidly on his flagstaff, and Philip walked about 
impatiently. Lieutenant Coleman jumped up and read from 
the paper he held in his hand : 

" Hood attacked again yesterday. Repulsed with a loss 
of seven thousand killed and wounded." 

With no thought of the horrible meaning of these for- 
midable figures to the widows and orphans of the men 
who had fallen in this gallant charge, Philip and Bromley 
cheered and cheered again, while the lieutenant sat down 
to decipher the next message. When he had mastered it 
the paper fell from his hands. He was speechless for the 
moment. 

"What is it?" said Philip, turning pale with the cer- 
tainty of bad news. 

"General McPherson is killed," said Lieutenant Cole- 
man. 

Now, so strangely are the passions of men wrought up 
in the time of war that these three hot-headed young 
partizans were quick to shed tears over the death of one 
man, though the destruction of a great host of their ene- 
mies had filled their hearts only with a fierce delight. 

During the Sunday which followed there was a feeling 
of gloomy foreboding on the mountain, and under it a 
fierce desire to hear what should come next. 



50 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

On Monday morning, July 25, the sun rose in a cloud- 
less sky, bathing the trees and all the distant peaks with 
cheerful light, while at the altitude of the station his al- 
most vertical rays were comfortable to feel in the cool 
breeze which blew across the plateau. Lieutenant Cole- 
man glanced frequently at the face of his watch, and the 
instant the hands stood at nine Philip began waving the 
flag. There was no response from the other mountain for 
so long a time that Corporal Bromley came to his relief, 
and the red flag with a white center continued to beat the 
air with a rushing and fluttering sound which was painful 
in the silence and suspense of waiting. 

When at last the little flag appeared on the object-glass 
of the telescope, it spelled but seven words and then dis- 
appeared. Philip uttered an exclamation of surprise at 
the brevity of the message, while Bromley wiped the per- 
spiration from his forehead and waited where he stood. 

In another minute Lieutenant Coleman had translated 
the seven words, but even in that brief time Corporal 
Bromley, whose eyes were fixed on his face, detected the 
deathly pallor which spread over his features. The young 
officer looked with a hopeless stare at his corporal, and 
without uttering a word extended his hand with the scrap 
of paper on which he had written the seven words of the 
message. 

Bromley took it, while Philip ran eagerly forward and 
looked tremb]ingly over his comrade's shoulder. 

The seven words of the message read : 

" General Sherman was killed yesterday before Atlanta." 




CHAPTER VII 

IN WHICH THE THREE SOLDIERS MAKE 
A REMARKABLE RESOLUTION 

f lEUTENANT COLEMAN, although stunned by 
the news conveyed by the seven words of the 
message, as soon as he could reopen commu- 
nication with the other mountain, telegraphed 
back to Lieutenant Swann, in command of the tenth 
station : 

"Is there no mistake in flagging General Sherman's 
death?" 

It was late in the afternoon when the return message 
came, which read as follows : 

" None. I have taken the same precaution to telegraph 
back to the station at Chattanooga. 

" Lieutenant James Swann, U. S. A." 

After this, and the terrible strain of waiting. Lieutenant 
Coleman and Corporal Bromley walked away in different 
directions on the mountain-top; and poor Philip, left 

51 



52 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

alone, sat down on the ground and burst into tears over 
the death of his favorite general. He saw nothing but 
gloom and disaster in the future. What would the old 
army do without its brilliant leader ? 

And, sure enough, on the following morning came the 
news that the heretofore victorious army was falling back 
across the Chattahoochee ; and another despatch confirmed 
the death of General Sherman, who had been riding along 
his lines with a single orderty when he was shot through 
the heart by a sharp-shooter of the enemy. 

Every morning after that the three soldiers went up to 
the station at the appointed hour, expecting only bad news, 
and, without fail, only bad news came. They learned that 
the baffled army in and about Marietta was being re- 
organized by General Thomas ; but the ray of hope was 
quenched in their hearts a few days later, when the news 
came that General Grant had met with overwhelming dis- 
aster before Richmond, and, like McClellan before him, 
was fighting his way back to his base of supplies at City 
Point. 

One day— it was August 6— there came a message from 
the chief signal-office at Chattanooga directing them to 
remain at their posts, at all hazards, until further orders ; 
and, close upon this, a report that General Grant's army 
was rapidly concentrating on Washington by way of the 
Potomac River. 

They had no doubt that the swift columns of Lee were 
already in motion overland toward the National capital, 
and they were not likely to be many days behind the 




'POOE PHILIP, LEFT ALONE, BURST INTO TEAES." 



A REMARKABLE RESOLUTION 55 

Federal army in concentrating at that point. Rumors of 
foreign intei-vention followed quick on the heels of this 
disheartening news, and on August 10 came a despatch 
which, being interpreted, read : " Yesterday, after a forced 
march of incredible rapidity, Longstreet's corps crossed 
the Upper Potomac near the Chain Bridge, and captured 
two forts to the north of Rock Creek Church. At daylight 
on August 9, after tearing up a section of the Baltimore 
and Ohio's tracks, a column of cavalry under Fitzhugh 
Lee captured a train-load of the government archives, 
bound for Philadelphia." 

Thus on the very day when General Sherman was bom- 
barding the city of Atlanta, and when everything was 
going well with the National cause elsewhere, these mis- 
guided young men were brought to the verge of despair 
by some mysterious agency which was cunningly falsify- 
ing the daily despatches. Nothing more melancholy can 
be conceived than the entries made at this time by Lieu- 
tenant Coleman in the station diary. 

Returning to the entry of July 26, which was the day 
following that on which they had received information 
of the death of General Sherman, the unhappy officer 
writes : 

" My men are intensely patriotic, and the despatch came 
to each of us like a personal blow. Its effect on my two 
men was an interesting study of character. Corporal 
Bromley is a Harvard man, having executive ability as 
well as education far above his humble rank, who entered 



56 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

the service of liis country at the first call to arms without 
a thought for his personal advantage. He is a man of 
high courage, and if he has a fault, it is a too outspoken 
intolerance of the failures of his superiors. Private Wel- 
ton is of a naturally refined and sensitive nature, and at 
fii'st he seemed wholly cowed and broken in spirit. Brom- 
ley, on the other hand, as he strode away from the station, 
showed a countenance livid with rage. 

"After supper, for we take our meals apart, I invited 
the men to my tent, and we sat out in the moonlight to 
discuss the probable situation. We talked of the over- 
whelming news until late in the evening, and then sat for 
a time in silence in the shadow of the chestnut-trees, look- 
ing out at the dazzling whiteness of the mountain-top 
before retiring, each to his individual sorrow." 

In the entry for August 6, after commenting somewhat 
bitterly on the report of the defeat of the Army of the 
Potomac, Lieutenant Coleman says, with reference to the 
despatch from the chief signal-of&cer of the same date : 

"The situation at this station is such, owing to our 
ignorance of the sentiment of the mountaineers and the 
hazard of visiting them in uniform, that I find a grave 
difficulty confronting me, which must be provided for at 
once. Our guide to this point has returned to Tennessee 
with the cavalry escort, and I have now reason deeply to 
regret that he was not required to put us in communica- 
tion with some trustworthy Union men. The issue of 



A REMARKABLE RESOLUTION 57 

commissary stores is reduced from this date to half -rations, 
and we shall begin at once to eke out our daily portion by 
such edibles as we can find on the mountain. Huckle- 
berries are abundant in the field above the bridge, and the 
men are ah*eady counting on the wild mandrakes. 

*' August 8. Nothing cheering to brighten the gloom of 
continued defeat and disaster. The necessity of procuidng 
everything edible within our reach keeps my men busy 
and affords them something to think of besides the dis- 
asters to the National armies. Welton discovered to-day 
four fresh-laid eggs, snugly hidden in a nest of leaves, 
under a clump of chestnut sprouts, interwoven with dry 
grasses, three of which he brought in." 

These entries referring to trivial things are interesting 
as showing the temper of the men, and how they employed 
their time at this critical period. 

On August 18 came a despatch that the Army of North- 
ern Virginia was entering Washington without material 
opposition. Lieutenant Coleman, in a portion of his diary 
for this date, says : 

" After a prolonged state of anger, during which he has 
commented bitterly on the conduct of affairs at Washing- 
ton, Corporal Bromley has settled into a morose and ir- 
ritable mood, in which no additional disaster disturbs him 
in the slightest degree. With his fine perceptions and 
well-trained mind, the natural result of a liberal education, 
I have found him heretofore a most interesting companion 



58 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

in hours off duty. My situation is made doubly intoler- 
able by his present condition." 

At 9 : 30 A. M, of August 20, 1864, came the last des- 
patches that were received by the three soldiers on White- 
side Mountain. 

" Hold on for immediate relief. Peace declared. Con- 
federate States are to retain Washington." 

The effect of this last message upon the J^oung men who 
received it is fully set forth in the diary of the following 
day, and no later account could afford so vivid a picture 
of the remarkable events recorded by Lieutenant Coleman : 

'' August 21, 1864. The messages of yesterday were 
flagged with the usual precision, and we have no reason 
to doubt their accuracy. Indeed, what has happened was 
expected by us so confidently that the despatches as trans- 
lated by me were received in silence by my men and with- 
out any evidence of excitement or surprise. I myself felt 
a sense of relief that the inevitable and disgraceful end 
had come. 

"Last evening was a memorable occasion to the three 
men on this mountain. We are no longer separated by 
any difference in rank, having mutually agreed to waive 
all such conditions. In presence of such agreement, I, 
Frederick Henry Coleman, Second Lieutenant in the 12th 
Regiment of Cavalry of the military forces of the United 
States (formerly so caDed), have this day, August 21, 1864, 



A REMARKABLE RESOLUTION 59 

written my resignation and sealed and addressed it to the 
Adjutant-General, wherever he may be. I am fully aware 
that, until the document is forwarded to its destination, 
only some power outside myself can terminate my ofiicial 
connection with the army, and that my personal act oper- 
ates only to divest me of rank in the estimation of my 
companions in exile. 

" After our supper last night we walked across the field 
in front of our quarters and around to the point where 
the northern end of the plateau joins the rocky face of the 
mountain. The sun had already set behind the opposite 
ridge, and the gathering shadows among the rocks and 
under the trees added a further color of melancholy to our 
gloomy and foreboding thoughts. 

" I am forced to admit that I have not been the domi- 
nant spirit in the resolution at which we have arrived. 
George Bromley had several times asserted that he 
would never return to a disgraced and divided country. 
At the time I had regarded his words as only the irrespon- 
sible expression of excitement and passion. 

" As we stood together on the hill last night, Bromley 
reverted to this subject, speaking with unusual calmness 
and deliberation. ' For my part,' said he, pausing to give 
force to his decision, 'I never desire to set foot in the 
United States again. I suppose I am as well equipped for 
the hf e of a hermit as any other man ; and I am sure that 
my temper is not favorable to meeting my countrymen, 
who are my countrymen no longer, and facing the humilia- 
tion and disgrace of this defeat. I have no near relatives 



60 THE LAST THEEE SOLDIEES 

and no personal attachments to compensate for what I 
regard as the sacrifice of a return and a tacit acceptance 
of the new order of things. I came into the army fresh 
from a college course which marked the close of my youth ; 
and shall I return in disgrace, without a profession or 
ambition, to begin a new career in the shadow of this 
overwhelming disaster ? I bind no one to my resolution,' 
he continued in clear, cold tones ; ' aU I ask is that you 
leave me the old flag, and I will set up a country of my 
own on this mountain-top, whose natural defenses will 
enable me to keep away all disturbers of my isolation.' 

'' I was deeply impressed with his words, and the more 
so because of the absence of all passion in his manner. I 
had respected him for his attainments ; I now felt that I 
loved the man for his unselfish, consuming love of coun- 
try. Strange to say, I, too, was without ties of kindred. 
My best friends in the old army had fallen in battle for 
the cause that was lost. On the night when we sat to- 
gether exulting over the double victory of the capture of 
Kenesaw Mountain and the sinking of the ' Alabama,' I 
had expressed a determination to renounce my chosen pro- 
fession in a certain event. That event had taken place. 
Under the magnetic influence of Bromley, what had only 
been a threat before became a bitter impulse and then a 
fierce resolve. 

"Taking his hand and looking steadily into his calm 
eyes, I said : ' I am an officer of the United States army, 
but I will promise you this : until I am ordered to do so, 
I will never leave this place.' 



A REMARKABLE RESOLUTION 61 

" Philip Welton had been a silent listener to this strange 
conversation. His more sentimental nature was melted to 
tears, and in a few words he signified his resolution to join 
his fate with ours. 

" We walked back across the mountain-top in the white 
light of the full moon, silently as we had come. After 
the resolve we had made, I began already to experience a 
sense of relief from the shame I felt at the failure of our 
numerous armies. The old government had fallen from 
its proud position among the nations of the earth. The 
flag we loved had been trampled under foot and despoiled 
of its stars— of how many we knew not. Our path lay 
through the plantation of young corn, whose broad, glisten- 
ing leaves brushed our faces and filled the air with the 
sweet fragrance of the juicy stalks. The planting seemed 
to have been an inspiration which alone would make it 
possible for us to survive the fii-st winter." 




CHAPTER VIII 

WHICH ENDS m A BATTLE 

^HE morning after the three soldiers had pledged 
themselves to a life of exile, like the (otherwise) 
practical young persons they were, they pro- 
ceeded resolutely to take stock of the provisions 
they had on hand and to consider the means of adding to 
their food-supply. They had already been nearly two 
months in camp, which was the period for which their 
rations had been issued; but, what with the generous 
measure of the government and the small game they had 
brought down with their carbines, nearly half of the origi- 
nal supply remained on storage in the hut of the old man 
of the mountain. It is true that there was but one box 
left of the hard bread ; but the salt beef, which had been 
covered with brine in the cask found in the corner of the 
cabin, had scarcely been touched. A few strips of the 
bacon still hung from the rafters. Of the peas and beans, 
only a few scattering seeds lay here and there on the floor. 
The precious salt formed but a small pile by itself, but 
there was stiU a brave supply of coffee and sugar, and the 

62 



WHICH ENDS IN A BATTLE 63 

best part of the original package of rice. In another month 
they would have green corn and potatoes of their own 
growing, and they already had eggs, as, fortunately, they 
had killed none of their hens. 

The tract of ground on the mountain was a half-hundred 
acres in extent, with an abundance of wood and water, 
protected on the borders by trees and bushes, and acces- 
sible only by the wooden ladder by which they themselves 
had come up the ledge. Their camp was in the center of 
the tract, where the smoke of their fires would never be 
seen from the valleys. Overhanging the boulder face of 
the mountain, just back of the ridge they had used for a 
signal-station, was a cliunp of black oaks, through which 
something like an old trail led down to a narrow tongue 
of land caught on a shelf of granite, which was dark with 
a tall growth of pines, and the earth beneath was covered 
with a thick, gray carpet of needles, clean and springy to 
the feet. Along the southern cliff, and to the west of the 
spring which welled out from under the rock, was a cur- 
tain of dogwoods and birches, and elsewhere the timber 
was chestnut. At some points the trees of the latter 
variety were old and gnarled, and clung to the rocks by 
fantastic twisted roots like the claws of great birds, and 
at others they grew in thrifty young groves, three and four 
lusty trunks springing from the sides of a decayed stump. 

They were certainly in the heart of the Confederacy, but 
the plateau was theirs by the right of possession, and over 
this, come what might, they were determined that the old 
flag with its thirty-five stars should continue to float. They 



64 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

at least would stubbornly refuse to acknowledge that there 
had been any change in the number of States. 

Owing to the danger of being seen, they agreed together 
that no one should go down the ladder dimng the dsiy. 
They were satisfied that they had not been seen since they 
had occupied the mountain. They had no reason to believe 
that any human being had crossed the bridge since the 
night the captain and his troopers had ridden away into 
the darkness; but still the bridge remained, the only 
menace to their safety, and, mth the military instinct of a 
small army retreating in an enemy's country, they deter- 
mined to destroy that means of reaching them. 

Accordingly, when night came, Lieutenant Coleman and 
George Bromley, leaving Philip asleep in the hut, armed 
themselves with the ax and the two carbines, and took 
their way across the lower field to the deep gorge. They 
had not been there since the night they parted with the 
captain and Andy, the guide. It was very still in this 
secluded place— even stiller, they thought, for the ceaseless 
tinkling of the branch in the bottom of the gorge. They 
had grown quite used to the stillness and solitude of na- 
ture in that upper wilderness. Enough of moonlight fell 
through the branches overhead so that they could see the 
forms of the trees that grew in the gorge ; and the moon 
itself was so low in the west that its rays slanted under 
the bridge and touched with a ghostly light the dead top 
of a great basswood which forked its giant limbs upward 
like beckoning arms. Then there was one ray of light 
that lanced its way to the very heart of the gorge, and 



WHICH ENDS IN A BATTLE 65 

touched a tiny patch of sparkling water alongside a shin- 
ing rock. 

They had the smallest ends of the string-pieces to deal 
with, as the trees had fallen from the other side. Bromley 
wielded the ax, which fell at first with a muffled sound in 
the rotten log, and then, as he reached the tougher heart, 
rang out clear and sharp, and echoed back from down the 
gorge. Presently he felt a weakening in the old stick, and, 
stepping back, he wiped his forehead on the sleeve of his 
jacket. The stillness which followed the blows of the ax 
was almost startling ; and the night wind which was rising 
on the mountain sounded like the rushing of wings in the 
tops of the pines on the opposite bank. 

After another moment's rest. Corporal Bromley laid his 
ax to the other string-piece. Lieutenant Coleman had 
taken position a few yards below the bridge, with his arm 
around a young chestnut, where he could detect the first 
movement of the swaying timbers. Fragments of bark 
and rotten wood were shaken from the crazy structure at 
every stroke of the ax, and a tiny chipmunk sprang out 
of his home in the stones, frightened at the chopping, and 
fled with light leaps across the doomed causeway. Now 
the blows fall more slowly, and after each stroke the ax- 
man steps back to listen. At last he hears a measured 
crackling in the resinous heart of the old log. He hears 
earth and small stones dropping from the abutment into 
the branches of the trees below. The structure lurches to 
one side ; there is a sound like a dull explosion ; a few loose 
sticks dance in the yellow cloud of dust that rises thick 



66 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

and stifling from the broken banks, and the toUsome work 
of thirty years before is undone in as many minutes. 

When the dust-cloud had di'ifted off, our two heroes, 
who had retreated for safety, came cautiously back and 
looked over into the gorge. They were startled at what 
they saw ; for the frame of the old bridge was poised in 
the moonlight like Mohammed's coffin, and swaying mock- 
ingly, as if the soul of the old man of the mountain had 
taken refuge in its timbers. Its slivered planks stood up 
like the fins of some sea-monster, crisscrossed and trem- 
bling, and spread out like the broken sticks of a fan. 

" Good ! " said Lieutenant Coleman ; "it has lodged in 
the forked arms of the dead basswood ; and the mountain 
people will attach some mystery to its going, as they did 
to its coming." 

He said '' Good ! " because the more mystery there was 
between their retreat and the enemy outside, the better. 
It would be many a long year now before anybody would 
be likely to come to distui'b them ; and with this thought 
in their hearts, they slung their carbines and took the way 
back. 

When they had come as far as the hoUow tree into which 
the cartridges had been thrown on the first night to keep 
them from the rain, they halted ; and George Bromley felt 
of the edge of the ax as he measured the height of the 
opening above the ground with his eye. He was not quite 
satisfied with this kind of measurement, and so, leaning 
against the old trunk, he thrust his right arm to its full 
length into the broad, black cavity. He was about to 



WHICH ENDS IN A BATTLE 67 

touch with his fingers the spot outside, opposite to which 
his right hand reached, when something like an exclama- 
tion of anger fell from his lips, and he lifted out of the 
opening a bear cub as large as a woodchuck. Bromley's 
bare hand had landed unexpectedly in the soft fur of the 
animal, and, with an absence of fear peculiar to himself, 
he had closed his powerful grip on the unknown object, 
and lifted out the young bear by the nape of its neck. 
Strong as he was, he was unable to hold the squirming 
cub until he had turned it over on its back and planted 
his knee on its chest. 

Behind the tree there was a great, dark hole among the 
rocks, which was the real entrance to the bears' den ; and 
expecting an attack from that quarter. Lieutenant Cole- 
man stood quietly in the moonlight, with his thumb on 
the lock of his carbine. As there was no movement any- 
where, he presently retui-ned to the hole in the tree, and 
prudently thrust in his short gun, which he worked about 
until the broad, flat end of the hinged ramrod was en- 
tangled in the coarse meshes of the sack. The cartridges 
were bone-dry after seven weeks in the bears' den, and the 
young cub was thrust into the bag, where he growled and 
struggled against the unknown power that was bearing 
him off. 

They had neither chains nor cage nor strong boxes, and 
when they had come safely back to the cabin with their 
prize they were greatly puzzled as to how they should 
secure it for the night. Philip was sleeping soundly on a 
bed of boughs in one corner, and showed no disposition to 



68 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

wake. They were careful not to distui'b him, wishing to 
prepare a pleasant surprise for him when he should wake 
in the morning and find the captured cub. 

" I have it," said Bromley, when his eyes had traveled 
around the room to the fireplace ; " the cub can't climb up 
the smooth stones of the chimney, and we will find a way 
to shut it in by blocking up the fireplace." 

They unslung the door of the cabin from its wooden 
hinges, and, after slipping the young bear from the mouth 
of the sack into the soft ashes, they quickly closed the 
opening, and secured the door in place, putting the meat- 
cask against one end and a heavy stone against the other. 

After a little disturbance in the ashes all was quiet in 
the fireplace. Lieutenant Coleman went away to his tent, 
and in five minutes after he lay down George Bromley 
was fast asleep beside Philip. 

At this time the moon was shining in at the open door ; 
but shortly afterward it set behind the western ridges, and 
in the hour before daybreak it was unusually dark on the 
mountain. Bromley was sleeping more lightly than usual, 
and, following his experience of the night, he was dream- 
ing of desperate encounters with bears ; or this may have 
happened because the cub in the chimney from time to 
time put his small nose to a hole in the door and whined, 
and then growled as he fell back into the ashes. 

One of the light cracker-boxes stood on end just inside 
the door, and it was the noise of this object thrown over 
on the floor that startled Bromley in the midst of his 
dream, just at the point where he saw the bear approach- 




THE MOTHER BEAR COMES FOR HEK CUB. 



WHICH ENDS IN A BATTLE 71 

ing. He was awake in an instant, but the spell of the 
dream was still on him, and he wondered that, instead of 
the huge form of the bear of his sleep, he saw only two 
glittering eyes in the doorway. For an instant he was at 
a loss to tell where he was. He saw the grayish opening 
of the window in the surrounding blackness, and a peculiar 
hole in the roof not quite covered by the pieces of shelter- 
tent ; and just as he came to himself the cub in the chim- 
ney, smelling its mother, whined joyfully at the hole in the 
door. With a deep growl the old bear scrambled over the 
creaking floor to her young one. Instinctively Bromley 
put out his hand for his carbine, and then he remembered 
that both guns had been left lying on the stone hearth. 
At the same time Philip awoke with a start, and the she- 
bear, scenting her natural enemies, uttered a growl which 
was half a snarl, and was about to charge into the corner 
where they lay, when Bromley snatched the blankets and 
threw them so dexterously over the gleaming eyes that in 
the momentary confusion of the brute he had time to drag 
and push Philip through the open door and out of the 
cabin. 

Furious as the beast was, she had no disposition to fol- 
low the boys into the open air. Her natural instinct kept 
her in the neighborhood of her imprisoned offspring, where 
she sat heavily on the two carbines and growled fiercely. 
The bear now had full and undisputed possession of the 
cabin, as well as of the entire stock of firearms, which 
absurd advantage she held until daylight, while Bromley 
and Philip sat impatiently in the lower Umbs of an old 



72 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

chestnut, where they had promptly taken refuge. Bromley 
had secured the ax in his retreat, and whUe PhUip sat 
securely above him, he guarded the approach along the 
sloping trunk, and would have welcomed the bear right 
gladly. They were near enough to throw sticks upon the 
"A" tent, and before dayUght Lieutenant Coleman was 
awakened and was lodged in the branches with them. 

" How very fortunate ! " said Philip from the top of the 
tree. " "We shall have a supply of jerked bear's meat for 
the winter." 

''Not so long as the bear sits on the carbines," said 
Bromley, with a grim smile. 

" If we could get that young cub out of the chimney—" 
said Lieutenant Coleman. 

" Or the old bear into it," suggested Philip. 

''Either way," said the lieutenant, "would put us in 
possession of the guns, and decide the battle in our favor." 

By the time they had, in their imaginations, dressed the 
bear and tanned her skin, it began to be light enough to 
enter upon a more vigorous and offensive campaign. This 
idea seemed to strike the bear at the same time, for she 
came out of the door, and, after sniffing the morning air, 
shambled tliree times around the cabin, smelling and 
clawing at the base of the chimney in each passage. Hav- 
ing made this survey of her suiToundings, she returned to 
her post and lay down on the carbines. 

These carbines were old smooth-bore muskets cut down 
for cavalry arms and fitted with a short bar and sliding 
ring over the lock-plate, which was stamped "Tower— 



WHICH ENDS IN A BATTLE 73 

London, 1862." They carried a ball fixed in front of a 
paper cartridge, and were fired by means of a percussion- 
cap. The pieces were loaded where they lay, with caps 
under the locks. 

There was a crevice between the logs at that side of the 
chimney where the door was held in position by the stone, 
and the wooden spade which Philip had used in his plant- 
ing could be seen from where the three soldiers sat in the 
tree, lying across the grave of the old man of the moun- 
tain. Lieutenant Coleman and Bromley slipped down to 
the ground and ran around to the back of the hut. The 
end of the door could be seen against the crevice, which 
was just above the level of the floor. The men took care 
to keep close to the chimney, so as to be out of sight of 
the bear, and when they had fixed their lever under the 
edge of the door they easily raised it high enough to let 
out the cub. 

When this was done they mounted to the roof of the 
cabin, Coleman armed with the wooden spade and Bromley 
with the ax. The bear came out presently, with the cub 
at her side, its thick fur gray with ashes. The two were 
headed to pass between the tent and the chestnut-tree, and 
when the old bear stopped at the foot of the trunk and 
raised her head with a threatening growl, Bromley stood 
up on the roof and hurled the ax, which slightly wounded 
the bear in the flank and caused her to charge back toward 
the cabin, while the bewildered cub scrambled up the tree 
in which Philip sat. 

Philip only laughed and called loudly to his comrades 



74 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

to get the guns. At the sound of his voice the she-bear 
turned about, and, seeing her cub in the tree, began scram- 
bhng up after it. At this quite unexpected turn in affaii-s 
Phihp began to clunb higher, no longer disposed to laugh, 
while Bromley jumped down on the opposite side of the 
cabin and secured the carbines, one of which he passed up 
to Lieutenant Coleman on the roof. Now, Coleman had a 
clear eye and a steady hand with a gun, and would have 
hit the heart of the bear with his bullet like the handiest 
old sport of the woods, but as the animal crouched in the 
crotch of the tree a great limb covered her side and head. 
By this time Philip was as high as he dared to chmb. The 
cub from the ashes was hugging the same slender limb, 
breathing on his naked feet, and the old bear, with bris- 
tling hair and erect ears, was growling where she lay, and 
putting out her great claws to go aloft after Philip. This 
was the critical moment, when Bromley ran under the 
tree and shot the bear. His ball went crashing into her 
shoulder instead of between the ribs behind, as he had 
meant it should. It was just as well, he thought, when .he 
saw her come rolUng along the trunk to the ground as if 
she were thrice dead. If he had only known bears a little 
better, he would probably have exchanged carbines and 
kept a safe distance from the animal ; and even then, in 
the end, it might have been worse for him. 

He had only broken her big, shaggy shoulder, and as 
he came near to the wounded brute she rose suddenly on 
her hind feet and dealt him such a whack with her sound 
paw as nearly broke his ribs and sent him roUing over 




'SHE EOSE SCTDDEXLT ON HER HIXD FEET AXD DEALT HIM SUCH A WHACK 
AS :yEAKLT BEOKE HIS EIBS." 



WHICH ENDS IN A BATTLE 77 

and over on the ground. Bear and man were so mixed in 
the air that even Coleman feared to risk a shot. Poor 
Bromley, crippled and bleeding at the nose, lay almost 
helpless on his back under the tree, and in this state the 
maddened bear charged furiously on him, her foaming and 
bloody jaws extended. Half stunned and more than half 
beaten, he had retained his cool nerve and a firm grip on 
his empty carbine ; and as the bear came over him, with 
all his remaining strength he crushed the clumsy weapon 
into her open mouth like a huge bit. She was so near 
that he felt her hot breath on his face, and saw her flam- 
ing eyes through the blood which nearly blinded his own. 
Bromley felt his strength going. The breath was nearly 
crushed out of his body by the weight of the bear, baffled 
for an instant by the mass of ii-on between her jaws. 
Philip, drawing up his toes from the cub, forgot his own 
peril as he gazed down in terror at the struggle below. At 
the moment which he believed was Bromley's last a quick 
report rang out from the roof, and the great bear rolled 
heavily to one side, with Lieutenant Coleman's bullet in 
her heart. 

It is not to be supposed that in the excitement of 
destroying bridges and killing bears Lieutenant Coleman 
neglected the signal-station. Morning after morning they 
waved their flag, and watched the summit of Upper Bald 
through the glass. No one could be more eager than 
were the three soldiers without a country to hear some 
further news of the old government they had loved and 



78 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

lost. They even turned their attention to Chestnut Knob. 
The entries in the diary show that this duty was continued 
hopelessly through September, with no reply to their sig- 
nals from either mountain. 

That disaster had overtaken the armies of the United 
States they accepted as a fact, and busied themselves about 
their domestic affairs that they might, being occupied, the 
more easily forget their great disappointment. The flesh 
of the bear was cured in long strips by the cool air and 
hot sun. To protect themselves from another unwelcome 
sui'prise, they removed the short upper ladder from the 
ledge in the cliff, and the bear cub, which had become a 
great pet under the name of " Tumbler," was allowed the 
range of the plateau. 

In this month of September the soldier exiles built a 
comfortable new house on ground a little in front of the 
old hut. Its walls were constructed of chestnut logs cut 
from the grove to the west, where they could be easily 
rolled down the hill, after which they were scored with the 
ax on the inner side, and notched so as to fit quite closely 
together. The roof was made of rafters and flattened 
string-pieces, and covered with shingles which they split 
from short sections of oak, and which were held in place 
with the nails that had been provided for the station. The 
floor was of pounded clay, raised a foot above the ground 
outside. It was a prodigious labor to bring down on 
rollers the great flat stone which they dug out of the hill- 
side for the fireplace. After this was laid firmly for a 
hearth, they built the chimney outside, laying the stones 



WHICH ENDS IN A BATTLE 79 

in a mortar of clay until the throat was siifficiently narrow ; 
and after that they carried the flue above the ridge-pole 
with sticks thickly plastered with mud. The house had 
two windows under the eaves opposite to each other ; and 
the doorway, which was in the gable end facing the fire- 
place, was fitted with the door from the old cabin, which 
they had no doubt had been framed down the mountain, 
and brought up by Josiah after midnight, and most likely 
it had been paid for with some of the strange gold pieces 
which had excited the suspicion of the gossips in the 
vaUey. 

It was a wonderfully comfortable house to look at, and 
almost made them long for the fall rain to beat on the 
roof, and for the cold nights when they could build a fire 
in the great chimney. 




CHAPTER IX 

THE PLATEAU RECEIVES A NAME 

\ T was now October, and time to being harvesting 
the crop on the little plantation, which some- 
thing very like an inspiration had prompted 
Philip to plant. While Lieutenant Coleman 
continued work on the house, stopping the chinks between 
the logs with clay, and repairing the roof of the hut with 
spare shingles, Bromley and Philip "topped" the corn, 
cutting off the stalks above the ripened ears. Then the 
potatoes were thrown out of the mellow soil with a wooden 
shovel, and left to dry in the sun, while a level place was 
prepared in the center of the plot, and thickly spread with 
a carpet of diy stalks. Upon this surface, after removing 
a few bushels to the hut, the crop was gathered into a 
conical heap and thatched over with stalks, and then the 
whole was thickly covered with earth and trenched about 
to turn off the water. 

It was estimated that this cache contained thirty bushels, 
which, according to the table in the Blue Book (Revised 

80 



THE PLATEAU EECEIVES A NAME 81 

Army Regulations), would exceed the potato ration of three 
men for a period of five years. 

From the day of their arrival on the mountain, Lieu- 
tenant Coleman had never failed to make a daily entry in 
the station journal ; and now that they had set up a coun- 
try for themselves, he foresaw that the continuance of this 
practice would be necessary if they were not to lose the 
record of weeks and months. His entry was always brief. 
Often it was no more than the date, and even the more 
important events were set down with the utmost brevity 
and precision. 

Once a week he noted the recurrence of the Sabbath, and 
on that day they suspended ordinary labor, and, if the 
weather was pleasant, inspected their increasing domestic 
comforts on the mountain-top and laid their plans for the 
future. After their military habit, the morning of Sunday 
was devoted to personal cleanliness and to tidying up 
about their quarters. 

As the commissary supply of yeUow bars diminished, it 
was evident that the time would soon come when they 
should be obliged to make their own soap. Back of the 
chestnut-tree in which they had taken refuge from the 
bear was a peculiar hoUowed rock, and above it a flat shelf 
of stone, on which Philip erected a hollow log for leaching 
ashes. A little patient chipping of the upper stone with 
the ax-head made a shallow furrow along which the lye 
would trickle from the leach, and fall into the natural 
basin in the rock below, which was large enough to hold 
a half-barrel. This was a happy device, as the strong 



82 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

liquid would have eaten its way through any vessel other 
than an iron pot or an earthen jar, of which unfortunately 
they possessed neither. 

They had but a limited supply of hard corn, from which 
they selected the best ears for the next year's planting. 
These they braided together by the husks, and hung up in 
yellow festoons from the rafters of the hut, which they 
continued to use as a storehouse. Much of what remained 
of their small crop would be needed by the fowls in the 
winter, and up to this time they had made no use of it for 
their own food. 

Meal was out of the question, and to break the flinty 
kernels between stones was a tedious process to which they 
had not yet been forced to resort. 

The presence of the lye, however, suggested to Bromley 
the hulled corn of his New England gi'andmother, which 
he had seen her prepare by soaking and boiling the kernels 
in a thin solution of lye. By this means the hulls or skins 
were removed, and after cleansing from potash, and boil- 
ing all day, the unbroken kernels became as white and 
tender as rice. 

This satisfied the three soldiers for a time, and made an 
agreeable addition to their diet of bear steak and potatoes. 
In the mountains of Tennessee Lieutenant Coleman had 
once seen a rude hydrauhc contrivance called a Slow-John, 
which was a sort of lazy man's mill. To construct this 
affair it was necessary to have a bucket, which Bromley 
set about making by the slow process of burning out a 
section of chestnut log with the red-hot ramrod of a carbine. 



THE PLATEAU RECEIVES A NAME 83 

At a short distance above the house, the branch which 
flowed from the spring, after making its refreshing way 
between grassy banks, tumbled over a succession of ledges 
which ended in a small cascade, and twelve feet below this 
waterfall there was a broad, flat rock which laved its mossy 
sides in the branch, and showed a clean, flat surface above 
the level of the water. Below this rock they built a dam 
of stones, by means of which they could flood its surface. 

Four feet up-stream from the rock a log was fixed from 
bank to bank for a ftdcrum, and upon this rested a mov- 
able lever, the short arm of which terminated above the 
submerged rock, while the long arm just touched the water 
of the cascade. A wooden pin set in the under log passed 
through a slot in the lever, so as to hold it in position and 
at the same time give it free play. Another flat stone of 
about thirty pounds' weight, which was the pestle of the 
mortar, was lashed with grape-vine thongs to the short 
arm of the lever directly over the submerged stone. To 
the long arm was attached Bromley's bucket, bailed with 
a strong wire, and so hung as to catch the water of the 
cascade. As the bucket filled and sank, its weight raised 
the flat stone higher and higher above the submerged rock 
until the bucket met a bar fixed to tilt its contents into 
the stream, when the upper miUstone came down upon its 
fellow with a fine splash and thud. After a wall of clay 
had been built about the surface where the two stones 
met, to keep the corn in place, the Slow-John was ready 
for work. 

It was slow, but it was sure, and after that, when one 

5* 



84 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

of the three soldiers awoke in the night, it was cheerful to 
hear the regular splash and crash of the Slow-John, like 
the ticking of a huge clock, lazy enough to tick once a 
minute, and patient enough to keep on ticking for two 
days and nights to pulverize as many quarts of corn. 

And now, for three young men who had solemnly re- 
nounced their country and cut themselves off voluntarily 
from all intercourse with their kind, they were about as 
cheerful and contented as could be expected. In spite of 
the great disaster which they beheved had befallen the 
National cause, their lungs expanded in the rare mountain 
air, and the good red blood danced in their veins, and with 
youth and health of body it was impossible to take an 
altogether gloomy view of life. They had at first tried 
hard to be miserable, but natui-e was against them, and the 
effort had been a failure. In their free life they could no 
more resist the infection of happiness than the birds in 
the trees could refrain from singing, and so it came to 
pass that in view of the bountiful harvest they had gath- 
ered, and the comfortable house they had built, and aU 
the domestic conveniences they had contrived. Lieutenant 
Coleman came out boldly in favor of setting apart Thurs- 
day, the twenty-fourth day of November, as a Day of 
Thanksgiving, and quite forgot to name it a day of 
humiliation as well. To this the others joyfully agreed, 
and agreed, moreover, that from that day forward the 
plateau should be called Lincoln Territory in memory of 
the patriotism of the good President, notwithstanding they 
felt that his divided counselors and incompetent generals 



THE PLATEAU RECEIVES A NAME 85 

had wiped the half of a great nation from the map of the 
"world. 

When this first holiday dawned on the mountain, the 
three soldiers arrayed themselves in full uniform for 
the ceremony of naming theii* possessions. Bromley and 
Philip buckled on their cavalry swords and slung their 
carbines at their backs, and Lieutenant Coleman, for the 
last time, assumed his discarded rank to take command. 
The arms had been polished the day before until they 
gleamed and flashed in the morning light, and the little 
army of two was dressed and faced and inspected, and 
then left at parade-rest while Lieutenant Coleman brought 
out the flag. How their honest hearts swelled with pride 
to think that here, alone in aU the world, that flag would 
continue to float with an undiminished field of stars ! 
Little did they dream that on that very morning hundreds 
like it were waving in the heart of Georgia over Sherman's 
legions on their march to the sea. When at last it blew 
out from the staff, they gathered under its folds, and sang 
" The Star-spangled Banner " with tears in their eyes ; and 
as the last words of the good old song rang out over the 
mountain-top, Philip and Bromley discharged their car- 
bines, and all three cheered lustily for the old flag and 
the new name. 

This was to be their last military ceremony, and having 
no further use for their swords, they arranged them with 
belts and scabbards into a handsome decoration against 
the chimneypiece, and crossed above them the three red- 
and-white flags of the station. The Revised Army Regu- 



86 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

lations and Philip's prayer-book stood on the mantelpiece 
alongside the spy-glass in its leathern case. The few 
articles of extra clothing hung in a line on the wall just 
opposite to the three bunks, whose under layer of pine 
boughs gave an aromatic perfume to the room. 

After the ceremony of naming the plateau, and having 
fixed the trophies to their satisfaction, the three exiles 
took down their sky-blue overcoats from the line, for the 
November air was nipping cold, and set out with the two 
carbines and an empty sack to keep Thanksgiving in the 
good old country way. They were still rather sad after 
what had happened in the morning ; but by the time they 
were back all the gloom had worn off, for they brought 
with them two rabbits and a bag of chestnuts, and appe- 
tites shai-pened by exercise in the keen air. 

Philip made the stew, and Bromley fried two chickens 
of their own raising, one after the other, on a half-canteen, 
and the potatoes, left to themselves, burst their jackets in 
the ashes with impatience to be eaten. Each man made 
his own coffee in his own blackened tin cup, and drank it 
with a keener relish because it was near the last of their 
commissary stock. 

While they were eating and drinking within, the sky 
without had become thick with clouds blown up on the 
east wind, so that when they looked out at the door they 
saw Tumbler, the bear, who also had been stuffing himself 
with acorns, and ants which he had pawed out of a rotten 
log, rolling home for shelter. 

There was yet time before the storm broke, and away 




CHKISTEXING THE TEKKIiOliV. 



THE PLATEAU EECEIVES A NAME 89 

they went up the hill as happy as lords, to load themselves 
with dead chestnut limbs and a few resinous sticks of fat 
pine ; and when night came, and with it the rain, there was 
a warm fire in the new chimney, and a stick of lightwood 
thrust behind the backlog lighted the interior of the house 
with a good forty-adamantine-candle power. Tumbler lay 
rolled up in his favorite corner, blinking his small eyes at 
the unusual light, and from time to time he passed his 
furry paw over his sharp nose and gave forth a low grunt 
of satisfaction. Philip sat against the chimney opposite 
Tumbler, stirring chestnuts in the ashes with a ramrod, 
while Bromley put away the last of the supper things, and 
Lieutenant Coleman gazed out of the open window into 
the slanting rain, which beat a merry tattoo on the shin- 
gles, and tossed at intervals a sturdy drop on the hissing 
fire. 

It was certainly not the cheerful interior, beaming with 
light and heat, that turned Lieutenant Coleman's thoughts 
back to the dark cloud of disasters which had overwhelmed 
the National arms ; it might have been the dismal outlook 
from the square window into the darkness and the storm. 
At all events, he turned abruptly about as if a new idea 
had struck him. 

" George, this sudden success of the Johnnies has not 
been gained without important outside aid. The French 
in Mexico may have decided at last to cross the border, 
and if they did it was in concert with the naval demon- 
strations of more than one European power against the 
blockade." 



90 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

" That is just what I have been thinking, Fred/' said 
Bromley, " and England is sure to be at the bottom of it. 
After the sinking of the ' Alabama ' there was no time to 
be lost, and when Grant's army began to fall back from 
Richmond, that hostile government had the excuse it had 
long been waiting for, and recognized the Confederacy at 
once," 

"I am of the opinion," replied Lieutenant Coleman, 
thoughtfully, *' that the recognition of the European pow- 
ers came before the withdrawal from Richmond, because 
Grant would never have yielded that position except in 
obedience to orders from Washington. Now would he ? " 

" No, he would n't," said Bromley. 

"Of coui'se not," said Philip. "It all began with the 
death of Uncle BUly." 

" So it did," said Bromley ; " and after Sherman's army 
was out of the way Johnston probably joined his forces 
with Hood, defeated Thomas, and retook Chattanooga. 
He could hardly have accomplished all that by August 20, 
but his cavalry must have struck our line of stations on 
that date." 

" Exactly so, George," Lieutenant Coleman responded. 
"If they had captured the tenth station alone, with 
Captain Swann, the line would have been useless and no 
further messages could have reached us. If Swann had 
found the hne broken behind him, he would certainly have 
flagged that news to me without delay." 

"Well, what 's the odds?" said Philip, drawing his 
chestnuts out upon the hearthstone. "The jig was up, 



THE PLATEAU RECEIVES A NAME 91 

and Captain Swann knew it. If they had taken any sta- 
tion this side of the tenth mountain, the effect to us would 
have been the same." 

" So it would," said Lieutenant Coleman, sadly, turning 
again to look out into the storm— ''so it would," 

" It is a blessing that we are ignorant of some things 
that have happened," said Bromley, who was disposed to 
look on the dark side. " It would have been just like Lee's 
impudence, after Washington was garrisoned, to cut loose 
with his army, and live on the country through Maryland, 
Pennsylvania, and New Jersey until he reached his foreign 
allies in the port of New York. If he has done that, for 
instance, I should rather not know it. WeU," continued 
Bromley, ''there is one comfort: if the Rebs conquer 
everything, they will defeat their own purpose and re- 
establish the Union they sought to destroy." 

"Yes," said Lieutenant Coleman, "but it would be a 
Union with slavery everywhere. They can turn the North- 
ern States back into Territories, and carry slavery into 
Massachusetts." 

" Bah ! " exclaimed Philip. " To think of the Territory 
of Ohio ! The Territory of Pennsylvania ! The Territory 
of New York ! " 

" Dear me ! " said Lieutenant Coleman ; " it is aU too hu- 
miliating to think of. After aU, what a miserable figure 
Abraham Lincoln will cut in history ! Think of it ! His 
Emancipation Proclamation is not worth the paper it was 
wi'itten on ! " 

" Ten thousand furies ! " cried Bromley, striding across 



92 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

the earthen floor and kicking the logs until the fire danced 
in the chimney ; " we made a wise choice when we deter- 
mined to stay on this mountain." 

" But we did make a mistake when we named the pla- 
teau Lincoln Territory," cried Philip. 

" That 's so," said Bromley and Lieutenant Coleman, 
with one voice. 

" It 's not too late yet," shouted Bromley. " Sherman ! 
Sherman was the only general worthy the name." 

And they all cried " Sherman ! Sherman ! " and by 
common consent, after all the ceremony of the morning, 
the name of the plateau was changed to Sherman Ter- 
ritory. 




CHAPTER X 

THE PRISONERS 

|HE ledge up which the ladders led from the 
direction of the gorge, it will be remembered, 
formed the northern support of the plateau. 
The unscalable cliff terminated its extent to 
the south; and of the two longer sides the one on the 
west overlooked Whiteside Cove, and that on the east 
Cashiers valley. The view into the Cove over the boulder 
side of the mountain, after the trees which grew on the 
edge were reached, was broad and unobstructed. On the 
eastern side there was but one gap in the timber which 
covered the mountain-side from the end of the ledge to 
the cliff, through which a perfect view could be had of the 
settlement in the valley. Before Andy Zachary left the 
plateau. Lieutenant Coleman had sketched a rude plot of 
the mountains overlooking the valley, and at the guide's 
dictation had written down the name of each peak. Yellow 
Mountain was the nearest, and showed a dark, timbered 
ridge beyond the gorge. At the northern end of the valley 
rose the mass of Sheep Cliff, and joined to it were the lesser 

93 



94 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

ridges of Big and Little Terrapin. Hog's Back showed its 
blue top ten miles away to the east, beyond the nearer 
wooded ridges that shut in the vaUey on that side, down 
to Rock Mountain and Chimney Top, which reared their 
sharp peaks to the right of the plateau. Directly below 
this eastern outlook lay the one white road which ran 
through the valley, the same road along which the caval- 
cade had picked its silent way in the small hours of the 
morning, five months before, when they had come, full of 
hope, to estabhsh the station. 

Our exiles up to this time had been so busy with their 
preparations for winter that they had given but little at- 
tention to their neighbors below. They had noticed on 
frosty mornings columns of white smoke rising straight 
into the air from half a dozen cabins in the vaUey, most 
of which had been hidden from view by the thick foliage 
during the summer months. Now that the November 
winds had stripped the trees of their leaves, two cabins 
appeared in the direction of Sheep Cliff, standing side by 
side among the bare oaks on a knoll which sloped gently 
to the road. The two seemed to be precisely alike, with 
rude verandas in front, and at no great distance back of 
these, in an open clearing, surrounded with orchards and 
stacks, was a long house with a heavy stone chimney at 
each end. Scattered to the right of the plateau were sev- 
eral cabins, and close on the road a square brown building 
which looked to be a store. Just below this point of rocks 
where the three solders looked down on the valley stood 
the largest house in the settlement, old and rambling in 



THE PRISONERS 95 

construction, with lurching chimneys and roofs extending 
to left and rear. The woodpile was at the opposite side 
of the road, and comfortable log barns stood on the hill- 
side above. All these details were to be seen with the 
naked eye, but the powerful telescope of the station re- 
vealed much more, even showing the faces and forms of 
the people who lived in the cabins. 

As the three exiles were lounging together one after- 
noon at this very point of rocks, studying their neighbors 
through the telescope as if they had been the inhabitants 
of another planet, Philip broke the silence with quite an 
original speech— one only he could make. 

'' See here, fellows," he said with that new familiarity 
they had begun to show toward each other, "as we are 
likely to take considerable interest in these people down 
below, it will be mighty inconvenient when we talk about 
them to say, ' The man in the big house across the road 
from the log barn did this,' or ' The man in the farthest 
twin cabin did that,' or ' The old chap in the long house 
flanked by orchards and stacks did something else ' ; so I 
say, let 's give them family names." 

The others laughingly admitted that the idea was not 
a bad one, and Bromley suggested at random the names 
Smith, Jones, and Brown. 

" As good as any others," said Philip. 

" Very well," said Bromley, " then we will call this first 
neighbor 'Smith.'" 

" No, you don't," cried Philip, with much spirit. " I 've 
taken a prejudice against that old fellow, because he sits 



96 THE LAST THEEE SOLDIERS 

on the woodpile and smokes his pipe every afternoon 
while his wife does the milking. Smith is too respectable 
a name for him." 

" I did n't know," said Coleman, laughing, " that there 
was any particular virtue in the name of Smith." 

" I did n't say there was," said Philip, "but if this first 
old loafer should turn out half as bad as I fear he will, the 
name would be a slur on too many families, you know. 
Now, if it 's all the same to you, gentlemen, we will begin 
at the other end and call the man of the orchard ' Smith.' 
'Jones' naturally falls to the owner of the second twin 
cabin, and this fellow below becomes— say, 'Shifless,' 
whether he likes it or not." 

As no one of the three had ever heard of any one of the 
name of Shifless, Philip's arrangement was agreed to, and 
from time to time they settled other names on the dwellers 
in every cabin in sight, and one column of smoke which 
rose from behind an intervening ridge was spoken of as 
"Thompson's smoke." 

On the morning of December 23 in that first year on the 
mountain, the three soldiers were thrown into a great state 
of excitement by a remarkable discovery. Coleman and 
Bromley were clearing off the snow from a stack of pea- 
vines, preparatory to beating them out on the floor of the 
house, when Philip came running toward them, holding 
up the telescope and beckoning them to meet him. He 
said he had seen three United States officers at the long 
cabin under Sheep Cliff, which was known as Smith's. 
The others needed no urging to follow Philip. Indeed, 



THE PRISONERS 97 

they ran so rapidly over the frozen ground in the rare 
upper air that they scarcely had breath for speaking when 
they arrived on the point of rocks. Philip directed the 
glass on the house again, and then, with a cry of delight, 
he passed it to Coleman. 

" There they are ! There they are ! See ? By the end 
of the house ! " 

As soon as the lieutenant had adjusted the powerful 
glass to his eye, he had the men before him almost as dis- 
tinctly as if they had been standing within hailing dis- 
tance. There was no mistaking the evidence that two of 
them were officers of what the three soldiers considered 
the beaten and disbanded army, while, although the third 
was in citizen's dress, it was unlike the dress of the 
mountaineers. 

" Heaven help them ! " exclaimed Lieutenant Coleman, 
as he gazed in amazement on the scene at the end of the 
long house. " How ragged they are ! They must have 
been hunted through the woods like wild animals. Both 
of the two in uniform wear jackets of the mounted service, 
and — stop— as sure as you are born, the taUer of the two 
is a lieutenant of artillery. He has but one shoulder-strap 
left, and that has too dark a ground for either cavalry or 
infantry. They may be from the staff. There is some- 
thing about their uniforms, in spite of rags and dirt, that 
makes me think so. The other carries a roll of blankets 
over his shoulder— he must be a soldier ; and they have 
just come in, too, for their haversacks are mighty lean." 

It looked as if the poor fellows had found friends at 
6 



98 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

last ; for, while they stood talking with two women at the 
end of the house, Smith himself, who was a lank moun- 
taineer with a red beard, was lounging by the gate with 
his gun on his shoulder, as if watching against surprise 
from the road. Bromley, who had been patiently waiting, 
now took the glass. 

" By Jove ! " he cried, " there are four girls there now, 
and the short officer is going into the house. You are 
right, Fred ; the old man is on guard, with a sharp eye in 
his head, too. They are all going into the house now, by 
Neighbor Smith's advice, I fancy. I '11 tell you who they 
are, Fred. They are escaped prisoners from Charleston. 
They must have been hiding in the woods and swamps 
for months. If that is the condition of the officers of the 
United States that were, a thousand times better is our 
lot on this free mountain-top." And returning the glass, 
Bromley ventured some bitter reflections on the Congress 
and the high officials who had conducted the war to a dis- 
astrous end. 

'' We must not lose sight of these unhappy men while 
they remain in the valley," said Coleman ; and, it then 
being ten o'clock, he settled himself behind the glass, and 
gave his watch to Bromley, who was to relieve him at twelve. 

Philip was too much excited by the presence of the 
fugitive officers to leave the rocks of his own accord ; but 
Coleman presently sent him to the house for a loaded 
carbine, which was laid by in a dry niche of granite, to be 
fired as a signal to the others in case of any movement of 
importance at the cabin below. For the rest of the morn- 



THE PRISONERS 99 

ing Smith with his gun kept his post at the gate, and the 
ofl&cers were never once seen outside the cabin. Judging 
by the volume of smoke from both chimneys, it would 
appear that they were faring pretty well inside. 

Shortly before noon one of the girls ran through the 
bare woods to the two cottages overlooking the road, and 
brought back Jones, who relieved Smith at the gate. It 
was evident that Jones was friendly to the officers, for 
when he was relieved in turn he went into the house, and 
it was a long time before he came out. 

Whoever was on watch was seldom alone, so keen was 
the interest of the exiles in the movements of their feUow- 
soldiers, and in any other happening which might concern 
them. According to Philip, who took the post of obser- 
vation at four o'clock, old Shifless bossed the milking from 
the woodpile as usual. It was plain that he had not been 
taken into the confidence of the Smiths or the Joneses, and 
this fact was laid up against him. 

After supper all three gathered on the rocky lookout, 
and remained observing the lights at the cabin of the 
Smiths long after it was too dark to use the telescope. 
There were no signs of departure below, and after they 
returned to the house, chilled by exposure and inaction, 
they sat until a late hour by the warm fire, discussing the 
events of the day and laying plans for the morrow. 

At the first indication of dawn Bromley dressed and set 
out for the rocks, while his comrades turned over for an- 
other nap, which was taken with one eye open, so excited 
were they in view of what might happen during the day. 



100 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

In their drowsy, half -wakeful state it seemed to Coleman and 
Philip as if no time at aU had passed since the departure 
of Bromley when they were startled by the echoing report 
of the carbine. Hurrying on their clothing, they scam- 
pered across the hard snow to the rocks, where they found 
Bromley with the telescope fixed on the house of Shifless. 

"There the old rogue is," said Bromley, handing the 
spy-glass to Coleman, " leading his mule out of the stable. 
He must have got some information during the night, for, 
after going to the stable with a lantern, he climbed up 
on to that ridge beyond and looked over at Smith's clear- 
ing as if he wanted to satisfy himself that all was quiet 
there. I suspected he was up to some deviltry as soon as 
I got out here, for I saw a light in the house, showing first 
from one window and then from another. Drat his pic- 
ture ! " Bromley continued. " As soon as he began cMmb- 
ing the hill I fired the alarm." 

"I never knew him to turn out before eight o'clock," 
said PhUip. 

" He certainly means mischief," said Coleman, '' for he 
is saddling the mule. Now he has blown out the lantern 
and hung it on the bar-post. Now he is mounting, the 
treacherous old villain! Confound him! there he goes 
trotting down the road toward the store." 

Philip and Bromley took a look at the man, hurrying 
along in the gray of the morning before another soul was 
awake in the settlement, and then they saw him turn on 
to the road which would lead him around the mountain 
into the Cove. 



THE PRISONERS 101 

" If I were only down in his neighborhood now," said 
Coleman, following Shifless with the telescope, "with a 
good rifle, I 'd tumble him off that mule. I should be 
serving my country." 

"What country?" sneered Bromley. 

To this Coleman made no reply, and the three walked 
slowly across the mountain to the boulder side. They had 
not long to wait there before the man on the mule appeared 
on the road below, and they followed him with scowling 
eyes until he drew up in front of the Cove post-office, dis- 
mounted, and went in. 

" Of course," exclaimed Bromley, " the postmaster is a 
creature of the Confederacy." 

In half an hour the two men trotted away together, and 
soon disappeared among the mountains. 

Our heroes turned back, certain in their minds that this 
stealthy journey of Shifless had been Tindertaken with 
hostile intentions toward the three officers who still re- 
mained in the cabin under the shadow of Sheep Cliff. 
They felt keenly their inability to warn them of the 
danger which hung over them, and hoped that during the 
day they might see the visitors leaving the valley. 

Their anxiety now made it necessary to watch for de- 
velopments in the Cove as well as in the valley, and they 
scarcely found time to prepare their meals, which they ate 
as they moved about. All day the telescope was in transit 
from one side of the mountain to the other until there was 
a deep path trodden in the snow. From time to time one 
or another of the officers was seen near the cabin, and 



102 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

even if they had not been seen at all, the presence of Smith 
or one of the girls watching at the gate would have been 
sufficient evidence that the officers were still there. They 
might be waiting for a guide or the cover of night be- 
fore going on. The day was unusually cold, and be- 
yond the smoke from the chimneys, and here and there 
a woman in a doorway, there was no movement in the 
quiet valley. 

Late in the afternoon of this December 24— for it was 
Christmas eve, and not a very cheerful one on the moun- 
tain — Bromley, who was watching on the Cove side, spied 
a body of men at that very point in the road where the 
two horsemen had disappeared in the morning. He 
shouted so lustily for the telescope that both Philip and 
Coleman joined him with all haste. 

What they saw through the glass was a straggling 
column of mountaineers advancing in single file along the 
winding road, their steel rifle-barrels catching the last rays 
of the setting sun. There were thirteen men in the party, 
of whom about half wore some pai't of a Confederate uni- 
form ; but neither Shifless nor the Cove postmaster was 
with them. They had scarcely time to pass the glass from 
one to another, in their excitement, before the men left the 
road and turned up the mountain-side with a stealthy 
movement that made it plain they were going into tempo- 
rary concealment. 

A few extracts from Lieutenant Coleman's diary at this 
point give a vivid picture of what was happening during 
the night on the mountain and about it. 



THE PRISONERS 103 

" I am writing by the light of the fire in our house on 
this Christmas eve, at 10 : 30 o'clock by my watch, power- 
less to warn our friends at the cabin of the impending 
calamity. Soon after dark, fire appeared on mountain- 
side, and it is now burniug brightly, as reported by Philip, 
who has just retm-ned to the lookout. 

" 12, midnight. Have just come in— fire still visible. 

" 12 : 35. Phihp reports that fire has just been extin- 
guished on mountain-side. Sparks indicated fire was put 
out by beating and scattering the brands. We are all about 
to go to Point of Rocks— shall probably be up all night." 

It seems that as soon as day began to dawn faintly on 
the mountain-tops, and while it was still dark in the 
valley, the three soldiers were crouching on the rocks 
eagerly awaiting light in the clearing. First the white- 
washed walls of the cabin came into view, and then, in the 
gray dawn, as they fully expected, they began to distin- 
guish motionless figures stationed at regular intervals in 
the clearing, and forming an armed cordon about the 
house. There was no sign of smoke from the stone chim- 
neys, nor any other evidence that the inmates had been 
disturbed by the soldiers or had awakened of their own 
accord. 

There was one hope left. The oflacers might have gone 
away during the night. They should soon know; and 
meanwhile the snowy mountains reared their dark ridges 
against the slowly reddening eastern sky, and a great 
silence lay on the vaUey. 




CHAPTER XI 

EST WHICH THE SOLDIERS MAKE A MAP 

^HE forbearance of the captors to disturb their 
prisoners was puzzling to the three soldiers 
huddled together on the point of rocks. 
Through the telescope the men could now be 
plainly seen, in their rough mountain dress, moving to 
and fro on their stations, and apparently keeping under 
cover where trees or outhouses were available as a mask. 
At one point several men were grouped together behind a 
fodder-stack, as if in consultation, and on the road could 
be seen one who seemed to be watching impatiently for 
some expected arrival. 

Holding the telescope soon grew tiresome, and they 
passed it from one to another, that no movement in the 
gruesome pantomime might escape their observation ; and 
the observer for the time being broke the silence at inter- 
vals with details of what he saw. 

" There ! " cried Philip, at last, " the men are getting 
lively behind the fodder-stack. Now the fellow in the 
road is waving his hat. Hold on ! There comes a man— 

104 



IN WHICH THE SOLDIERS MAKE A MAP 105 

two men— on horseback. Now the sentinels are moving 
in toward the cabin." 

Thus the cordon was drawn close about the house, in 
which the inmates stiU showed no signs of life. The 
horsemen dismounted and tied their horses to the fence, 
and then, with an armed guard, advanced to the door. 
Lieutenant Coleman looked at his watch. It was twenty 
minutes after seven. At seven twenty-eight the old 
mountaineer appeared, and was passed down the line to 
the road. Next came the three officers, one after the 
other, and they were removed to one side under guard. 
Then the four women seemed to be driven out of the house 
by the soldiers, and forced along by violence into the road. 
Some of the men appeared to be breaking the windows of 
the cabin, and others were running out of the open door, 
appropriating some objects and ruthlessly destroying 
others. For the first time the soldier exiles realized how 
far they were removed, by their own will, from a world in 
which they had no part. The sufferers were their friends 
whom they knew not, and to help whom they had no 
power. They were like spirits looking down from a world 
above on the passions of mortals— as helpless to interfere 
as the motionless rocks. 

After a brief consultation the mounted men rode away 
to the north, while the prisoners, with their guards, ad- 
vanced in the opposite direction and soon disappeared 
behind that ridge up which Shifless had climbed to look 
over in the gray of the morning of the day before. A 
puff of smoke burst from the deserted cabin and rose like 



106 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

a tower into the frosty air. Fire gleamed through the 
broken windows, and red tongues of flame licked about 
the dry logs, and lashed and forked under the eaves and 
about the edges of the shingled roof. The reflection from 
the flames reddened the snow in the little clearing. The 
stacks caught fire. The boughs of the orchard withered 
and crisped in the fierce heat. 

Now, as if satisfied with their work of destruction, the 
men who had remained at the house joined the others be- 
hind the ridge, and the armed guards, with their miserable 
prisoners, soon reappeared, moving over the snow under 
the bare trees. The three soldiers lay out on the rocks 
above to watch the poor captives picking their way down 
a stony, winding trail, forming one stragghng file between 
two flanking columns of mountaineers. Knowing some- 
thing of the stoical ways of these people, they could feel 
the sUence of that gloomy progress. They even fancied 
they could hear the crunching of the snow, the rolling of 
displaced stones on the frosty hillside, the crackling of 
brittle twigs under foot, and the subdued sobbing of the" 
women. 

Steadily the procession of ill omen moved along over the 
snow under the thin trees, disappearing and reappearing 
and dwindling in the distance, untU it was lost behind the 
spurs of the mountain called Chimney Top. By this time 
the roof of the house had fallen into the burning mass 
between the two stone chimneys ; the sun had risen, and 
the dense column of smoke cast a writhing shadow against 
the snowy face of Sheep Cliff. 




■THE FONYLS HUNG ABOUT THE DOOE.' 



IN WHICH THE SOLDIEES IVIAKE A MAP 109 

When the glass was brought to bear on the house and 
road below, it revealed Shifless and the Cove postmaster 
riding quietly home on their mules, doubtless well satisfied 
with the evil deed their heads had planned. 

As the three soldiers turned back in the direction of 
their house, Bromley was in a rage, and Philip could no 
longer command himself. All three were worn and hag- 
gard with loss of sleep, and depressed by the outcome of 
the affair in the valley. 

In fact, the disheartening effect of the experiences con- 
nected with this first Christmas continued to oppress our 
exiles well into the next year. If, in the narrow valley on 
which they were privileged to look down, three officers of 
the old armies had been thus hunted and dragged off be- 
fore their eyes, they had reason to believe that fragments 
of those armies were receiving similar or worse treatment 
wherever they might be found. Time and their daily work 
gradually calmed their minds and helped them to forget 
the pain of what they had seen. They missed the company 
of the bear, too ; for even before this great disturbance of 
their tranquillity that amusing companion of their solitude 
had burrowed himself away, to consume his own fat, where 
not even their telescope could discover him for several 
months. 

Presently the winter snows became deeper on the 
mountain, and they were confined more and more to the 
house. The Slow-John was frozen up in the branch, and 
the fowls, which could no longer forage for their own liv- 
ing, hung about the door for the scraps from the table and 



110 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

an occasional handful of corn. They roosted in the cabin 
of the old man of the mountain, and now and then, in 
return for their keep, laid an egg, which was often frozen 
before it was found. 

The soft, clean husks of the corn, added to the pine 
boughs, made comfortable beds, and the tents spread over 
the blankets provided abundant covering. Grreat bunches 
of catnip and pennyroyal for tea hung from the rafters, 
and even the wild gentian, potent to cure all ailments, was 
not forgotten in the winter outfit. 

The prayer-book and Army Regulations, which formed 
their library, were read and re-read, and discussed until 
theology and the art of clothing and feeding an army were 
worn threadbare. Phihp, who was blessed with a vivid 
imagination and great originality, made up the most mar- 
velous ghost-stories and the most heartrending and finally 
soul-satisfying romances, which were recited in the even- 
ings before the fire, to the huge enjoyment of his compan- 
ions. If it was romance, a fat pine-knot thrust between 
the logs illumined the interior and searched the farthest 
corners and crannies of the room with a flood of light ; and 
in case it was a ghost-story, the logs were left to burn low 
and fall piecemeal into the red coals before the eyes of the 
three figures sitting half revealed in sympathetic obscurity. 

One of the most interesting incidents of the first winter 
was the construction, by Lieutenant Coleman, of a map of 
the "old United States," and the plotting thereon of the 
Confederacy as they supposed it to be. When it is re- 
membered that the map was drawn entirely from memory, 



IN WHICH THE SOLDIERS MAKE A MAP 111 

the clear topographical knowledge of the officer was, to say 
the least, surprising. 

The first reference to the map is found in Lieutenant 
Coleman's entry in the diary for the 24th of January, 
1865: 

"As we were sitting before the fire last night, George 
introduced a subject which, by common consent, we have 
rather avoided any reference to or conversation upon. 
This related to the probable boundaries of the new nation 
established by the triumphant Confederates. We had no 
doubt that the Confederacy embraced all the States which 
were slaveholding States at the outbreak of the Rebellion ; 
and as they doubtless had made Washington their capital, 
it was more than probable that they had added little Dela- 
ware to Maryland on their northern border. We assumed 
that so long as there were two governments in the old 
territory, the Ohio River would be accepted as a natural 
boundary as far as to the Mississippi; but we were of 
widely different opinions as to the line of separation 
thence. 

" George, who is inclined to the darker view, is of the 
opinion that the Southern republic, if it be a republic at 
all, would certainly demand an opening to the Pacific 
Ocean, and therefore must embrace a part, if not the 
whole, of California. 

"February 16. We have been confined to the house 
two days by a driving snow-storm, and the territorial 
extent of the Confederacy has come up again, not, how- 



112 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

ever, for the first time since the discussion on the 23d of 
January. As we still have one stormy month before the 
opening of spring, I have determined to enter upon the 
construction of a map which shall lay down the probable 
boundaries of the two nations. When George and I are 
unable to agree, the point in dispute will be argued before 
Philip, and settled by the votes of the three." 

On February 17, then, this map was begun on the inner 
side of one of the rubber ponchos after buttoning down 
and gluing with pitch the opening in the center. It was 
stretched on a frame, and thus provided a clean white 
canvas five feet square on which to draw the map. 

If Lieutenant Coleman and his companions had known 
that General Sherman, after whom they had named their 
island in the sky and whom they moui-ned as dead, was 
that very morning marching into the city of Columbia, the 
capital of South Carolina, with aU his bands playing and 
flags flying, the map would never have been made, and the 
life on the mountain would have come to a sudden end. 
Fortunately for the continuance of this history, they were 
ignorant of that fact, and Lieutenant Coleman on this very 
day began plotting his map with charcoal. After going 
over the coasts and watercourses and estabhshing the 
boundaries of States, and that greatest and most difficult 
of all boundaries, the one between " the two countries," he 
would blow off the charcoal and complete the details with 
ink. Of this necessary fluid there was a canteen fuU, 
which had been made in the fall from oak-gaUs (lumps or 



EN WHICH THE SOLDIEES MAKE A MAP 113 

balls produced on the oak-leaves by tiny insects) and the 
purple pokeberries which had been gathered from the field 
below the ledge. The oak-leaves had been steeped in 
warm water, and this mixture, together with the berries, 
had been strained through a cloth and bottled up in the 
canteen. 

While at West Point, Cadet Coleman, of the class of '63, 
had devoted himself to mapping, and he believed he was 
tolerably familiar with his subject until, at the very out- 
set, difficulties began to arise. He found that his know- 
ledge about the Northwestern Territories was shaky, and 
it was difficult to convince Bromley that Arkansas was not 
west of Kansas. 

They finally gave little Delaware to the Confederacy, 
accepting the bay and river as a natural geographical 
separation. Thence they followed the southern boundary 
of Pennsylvania to the Ohio River, the Ohio and Missis- 
sippi to the southern boundary of Iowa, and thence west 
and south on the northern and western frontiers of Mis- 
souri. The Indian Territory became the first point of 
disagreement. 

Under date of March 1, 1865, Lieutenant Coleman says : 

"With the aid of Philip, I pressed the boundary line 
south to the Red River. We all conceded Texas to the 
Confederacy. I was disposed to establish the extreme 
western boundary of the Confederacy as identical with the 
western frontier of Texas. George allowed this so far 
as the Rio Grande formed a natural boundary along the 



114 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

frontier of Mexico, but stoutly insisted that the successful 
Southerners would never consent to a settlement which 
did not extend their borders to the Pacific Ocean. To 
this claim on the part of the South he contended that the 
imbecility of Congress and the timidity of Northern leaders 
would offer little or no opposition. He held that if they 
took part of Cahf ornia, they might as well take the whole ; 
and in either case they would take New Mexico and Ari- 
zona as the natural connection with their Pacific territory. 
"I contended that California had never been a slave 
State, and would never consent to such an arrangement. 
To this George replied that California was without troops, 
and that her wishes would not be a factor in the solution 
of the problem ; that the South, flushed with victory, could 
not be logically expected to content itself with less ; that 
it would be a matter to be settled between the two govern- 
ments, and that, for his part, he saw no reason to believe 
that the North, in view of its blunders civil and its fail- 
ures military, would have the power or the courage to 
prevent such seizure by the enemy. Philip leaned to this " 
view, and was even willing to throw in Utah for senti- 
mental reasons." 

Bromley showed great skill and cleverness in advocat- 
ing his peculiar views. When he had a point to gain, 
with the natural cunning of a legal mind, he took care to 
begin his argument by claiming much more than he ex- 
pected to establish. Thus, not content with the concession 
of California and the southern tier of Territories leading 




' PHILIP MADE UP THE MOST MARVELOUS STORIES, WHICH WERE RECITED 
BEFORE THE FIRE." 



IN WHICH THE SOLDIEES MAKE A MAP 117 

thereto, he called the attention of the others to the great 
Rocky Mountain range, offering itself, from the north- 
western extremity of Texas to the British possessions, as 
a natural geographical wall between nations. He admitted 
that the Western men had been the bone and sinew of the 
late fruitless struggle ; but they were the hardy soldiers of 
Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Kansas, still far to the east 
of the great mountain-range, with vast uncivilized Terri- 
tories between. 

To this view Lieutenant Coleman opposed the jealousy 
of the great aUy of the South as not likely to favor an 
unequal partition ; he said that England would certainly 
not lend her aid to bringing the more aggressive of the 
two nations up to her own colonial borders. Besides, he 
contended, the South was without a navy, and at the out- 
set could never defend such a great addition to her already 
vastly superior coast-line. 

This long argument resulted in a compromise, and by 
the decision of Philip, California, Arizona, and New Mexico 
were given to the Confederacy, and half the Pacific coast 
was saved to the old government. 

Bromley's matter-of-fact character had no sentimental 
side. He was a worker, and no dreamer. He threw him- 
self with aU the weight of his convictions and the force of 
his weU-trained mind into the discussion of the extent of 
the Confederate victory; but the moment the boundary 
was settled he seemed to forget the existence of the map 
and to lose himself in the next piece of work. 

After completing the outlines of the map in ink. Lieu- 



118 THE LAST THEEE SOLDIEKS 

tenant Coleman began laying a tone of lines over the whole 
Confederacy. As the work progressed, the tkree soldiers 
watched the new power creeping like an ominous shadow 
over the map. The one break in the expanse of gloom 
was the white star at the northwestern corner of North 
Carohna, which marked the location of Sherman Territory. 
When the map was finished and hung on the logs, the 
Confederacy looked like nothing so much as a huge dragon 
crouching on the GuK of Mexico, with the neck and head 
elevated along the Pacific and the tail brushing Cuba. 

Although they accepted the map without further dis- 
cussion, its white face, looking down on them from the 
waU as they sat about the evening fire, provoked many a 
talk about affairs in the world below. The time for the 
election of a new President had passed since they had been 
on the mountain. After the complete and pitiful collapse 
of Lincoln's administration, they had no doubt that Mc- 
Clellan had been elected. Philip thought the new capital 
should be located at Piqua, Ohio (which was where his 
uncle lived), as it was near the center of population ! 

But Bromley favored the city of Cleveland. Ohio, he 
pointed out, extended entirely across the Union, and, as 
the State which linked the two parts together, it would 
need to be strongly guarded, and the capital with its troops 
and fortifications would strengthen that weak link in the 
chain. Cincinnati was too close to the enemy's territory 
to be thought of as a capital. 

Shortly before undertaking the map. Lieutenant Cole- 
man had the good fortune to bring down a large gray 



120 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

eagle, which, although soaring high above the valleys, 
was but just skimming the mountain-top. This was a 
fortunate event, because the very last steel pen had become 
very worn and corroded. Lieutenant Coleman had been 
longing above all things for quills, and now that he wrote 
again with an easy and flowing hand, he seems to have 
forgotten that his supply of paper was limited. In the 
controversy over the map the entries are of unusual length, 
and then suddenly they become brief and cramped, and 
are written in so small a hand that there can be no doubt 
the writer took sudden alarm on discovering how few blank 
pages were left in the book. 

Since Christmas the telescope had rarely been taken 
from its place on the chimney, and if they looked over into 
the Cove or the valley without it, those snow-covered re- 
gions below were far-off countries, where the houses showed 
only as rounded forms, and the human ants who lived in 
them were scarcely visible. 




CHAPTER XII 

HOW THE BEAR DISGRACED HIMSELF 

[T last the long winter came to an end. By the 
middle of March the warm sun and soft south 
winds began to thaw the February snows. On 
such a day, when the afternoon sun beat with 
unusual warmth on the northern face of the mountain, the 
three soldiers stood together in front of the house, noting 
everywhere the joyful signs of the approach of spring. 
The snow, where it lay thickest in the hoUows of the 
plateau, was soft and porous and grimy with dirt. There 
were bare spaces here and there on the ground, and where 
a stick or a stone showed through the thin crust the snow 
had retired around it as if it gave out a heat of its own. 
The melting icicles pendent from the eaves glittered in the 
sun and dripped into the channels alongside the walls. 

They had a great longing to see the grass and the leaves 
again and welcome the early birds of spring. As they 
looked about on these hopeful signs in the midst of the 
great stillness to which they had become used, a sudden 
deafening crash rang in their startled ears. The sound was 

7* 121 



122 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

like the explosion of a mine or the dull roar of a siege- 
mortar at a little distance away. It came from the Cove 
to the north, and the first crash was followed by lesser 
reports, and each sound was echoed back from the moun- 
tains beyond. 

The fii'st thought of the three soldiers was of the open- 
ing of a battle. Their first fear was that a great mass of 
earth and rock had fallen from the edge of the plateau to 
the base of the mountain. They made their way cautiously 
in the direction of the sound, almost distrusting the ground 
under their feet. The gnarled chestnuts on the edge of 
the cliff were as firmly rooted as ever. When they had 
advanced to where PhUip's sharp eyes caught the first view 
of the postmaster's cabin through the twisted tree-trunks, 
he remembered the words of Andy, the guide, on the night 
when they had waited for the moon to go down. He 
quickly caught the arms of his companions. 

"It 's the avalanche," he said— "the icicles and the ice 
falling into the Cove from the face of the great boulder." 

They could see tiny figures standing about the cabin, 
and they shrank back lest they, too, might be seen by the 
people, who were evidently gazing with all their eyes at 
the top of the mountain. 

Just then there was another deafening crash, and at 
intervals all day long they heard the falling of the ice. 

" They are the opening guns of spring," said Lieutenant 
Coleman ; and now that they knew what the sound was, 
they listened eagerly for each report. 

Late on that very afternoon, as they sat together out- 



HOW THE BEAE DISGRACED HIMSELF 123 

side the house, they saw Tumbler, the bear, shambHng 
down the hillside in front of the house, and they had no 
doubt he had been awakened from his winter's nap by the 
roar of the avalanche. He was thin of flesh and ragged 
of fur, and so weak on his clumsy legs that he sat down 
at short intervals to rest. He made his way first to the 
branch, where he refreshed himself with a drink, and then 
came on with renewed vigor toward the house. He was 
such a very disreputable-looking bear, and had been gone 
so long, and must be so dangerously hungry, that the men 
stood up doubtfully at his approach until they saw a weak 
movement of his stumpy tail and the mild look in his 
brown eyes as he seated himself on the chips and lolled 
out his red tongue. 

Philip brought him a handful of roast potatoes, which 
he devoured with a relish, and then stood up so hand- 
somely to ask for more that they rolled him raw ones 
until his hunger was satisfied, after which he waddled 
through the open door, and lay down for another nap in 
his old place by the fire, just as if he had gone out but 
yesterday, which was probably just what he thought he 
had done. 

By this time the last page of the station journal had 
been used, and Lieutenant Coleman had added to it the 
five fly-leaves of the precious Blue Book, which he had cut 
out neatly with his knife. Paper was so scarce at last that 
on this March 16, which was the day the bear woke up, the 
circumstance of the avalanche alone was recorded, and 
that was entered after the date in the most wonderfully 



124 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

small and cramped letters you can imagine. Now, Philip 
was of the opinion that the return of the bear was of quite 
as much importance as the falling of the ice. It happened 
that he had in his breast pocket a letter which had been 
written to him by his uncle. It was postmarked, " Piqua, 
Ohio," and addressed, "Philip Welton, Co. C, 2d Ohio 
Infy., Camp near Resaca, Ga."' Philip had been looking 
over Coleman's shoulder as he made the cramped entry in 
the diary. 

" Now look here," said he, taking up the quiU as it was 
laid down ; " if you don't choose to make a record of the 
bear, I wiU." So taking from his pocket the letter, he 
wrote across the top of the envelop : 

"Whiteside Mountain, March 16, 1865. 
" Tumbler, the bear, woke up to-day. 
"(Signed) Philip Welton, 

"George Bromley, 
"Frederick Henry Coleman." 

" Well," said Coleman, " what are you going to do with 
that ? Drop it over into the Cove ? " 

" Not a bit of it," said Philip. " I am just going to keep 
the record out of respect to the bear " ; and with that, as 
it happened, he put the envelop back in one pocket and the 
letter in another. But a few weeks later, when the snow 
had quite gone and the buds were beginning to swell on 
the trees, Philip was chopping on the hill where the 
boulder side of the mountain joined the cliff above the 



HOW THE BEAE DISGEACED HIMSELF 125 

spring ; and as he grew warm witli his work he cast off his 
cavalry jacket, and it happened in some way that the en- 
velop on which he had written fell out into the grass. 
Philip did not notice this loss at the time, and it was a 
week before he missed the envelop. He kept his loss to 
himself at first, but as he became alarmed lest it should 
blow over into the Cove and disclose their hiding-place, he 
confessed to Lieutenant Coleman what had happened. 

The three soldiers searched everywhere for this danger- 
ous paper, except in the snug place under the tuft of grass 
where it lay. It was suspected that Philip was repenting 
of the agreement he had made to remain on the mountain, 
and both Coleman and Bromley lectured him roundly for 
his carelessness. While Philip was still chafing under the 
suspicions of his comrades, all the more that he was con- 
scious of his perfect loyalty to the old flag and to the com- 
pact they had made together for its sake, the bear was 
growing stronger every day and more mischievous. 
Although he had the whole plateau to roam over, nothing 
seemed to please Tumbler so much as to nose about and 
dig into the grave of the old man of the mountain. He 
was such a wicked bear that the more they kicked and 
cuffed him away, the more stubbornly he came back to his 
unholy work ; and then it appeared that the light soil of 
the mound had been taken possession of by a colony of 
ants. It was a temptation such as no hungry bear could 
resist, and the sacrilege was so offensive to the three 
soldiers that they resolved to remove the last remnant of 
the ant-hill and fill it in with clay in which no insect could 



126 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

live. It was after supper when they came to this resolu- 
tion, and they fell to work at once with the wooden spade 
and a piece of tent-cloth, in which Phihp carried the dirt 
a stone's-throw away and piled it into a new mound. The 
bear seemed to think this was all for his benefit, and while 
the work went merrily on he rooted into the new heap and 
wagged his stumpy tail with every evidence of gratitude 
and satisfaction. 

It was a sufficiently disagreeable task for Coleman and 
Bromley, whose legs and bodies were bitten by the ants 
until they danced with pain. At the same time the little 
pests went up Philip's sleeves and came out on his neck. 
Bad as the business was, they set their teeth and kept at 
work, determined to finish it now they had begun. Of 
course the colony was mostly near the surface of the 
ground ; but when they had gone down three feet into the 
sandy soil there were still ants burrowing about. 

Now, Bromley was a man of great resolution and per- 
severance, and although it was growing dark he had no 
thought of stopping work ; so he called for a pine torch, 
which Coleman held on the bank above. Wlien the earth 
gave way, the oak slab with the peculiar inscription, " One 
who wishes to be forgotten," was tenderly removed and 
leaned against the hut, to be reverently reset the next day. 
Annoying as the ants were, the soldiers continued their 
work with that feeling of awe which always attends the 
disturbing of a grave; and as they dug they spoke with 
charity and tenderness of the old man of the mountain. 
It made them think of the time when they themselves 



HOW THE BEAR DISGRACED HIMSELF 127 

would be laid to rest in the same soil ; and if they breathed 
any inward prayer, it was that their remains might sleep 
undisturbed. Although they were young, and death 
seemed a long way off, the thought came to them of the 
last survivor, and how lonely he would be, and how, when 
he should die, there would be no one left to bury his poor 
body in the ground. 

" Whatever happens," said Philip, " I don't want to be 
the last." 

The pine torch flared and smoked in the cool night wind, 
and lighted the solemn faces of the three soldiers as well 
as the hole in the earth, where Bromley stiU stood to his 
middle. There was yet a little loose earth to be thrown 
out before they left the work for the night, and Philip had 
brought some sticks of wood to lay over the grave lest in 
the morning the bear should begin to dig where they had 
left off. He had, in fact, come up and seated himself in 
the circle of light, and was looking on with great interest 
at their proceedings. 

" I declare," said Bromley, just then, straightening him- 
self, " I have gone too far already. My spade struck on 
the coffin— that is, I think it did. Perhaps I had better 
see what condition it is in. What do you think, Fred ? " 

" No," said Philip ; " cover it up." 

"It will be as well," said Lieutenant Coleman, "now 
that we have the opportunity, to see that everything is all 
right. I can't help feeling that the old man's remains are 
in our care." 

" Hold the light nearer, then," said Bromley, as he got 



128 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

down on his knees and commenced to paw away the loose 
earth with his hands. 

Philip was silent, and, soldier though he was, his face 
blanched in the neighborhood of one poor coffin. 

Both the men outside were staring intently into the open 
grave. The torch-light feU broadly on Bromley's back, 
and cast a black shadow from his bent body into the space 
below, where his hands were at work. 

" WeU, this is queer ! " said he, straightening his back 
and showing a sui-prised face to the light. " I 've struck 
the chime of a cask." 

" No ! " cried Coleman and Philip together. 

" Yes, I have," said Bromley. " Hand me the spade." 

Now the work of digging was begun in good earnest, 
and, I am afraid, with less awe than before of what lay 
below. Light as the soil was, the opening had to be en- 
larged, and it was hard upon midnight when the small 
beer-keg was free enough to be moved from its resting- 
place. "With the first joggle Bromley gave it, there was a 
sound of chinking like coin. 

" Do you hear that ? " exclaimed Bromley. " That 's not 
the sound of bones." 

" It 's money ! " cried Philip. 

Lieutenant Coleman said nothing, but jumping down to 
the aid of Bromley, they lifted it out on the grass, where 
it rolled gently down a little slope, chink-a-ty-chink, 
chink-a-ty-chink. 

" Bring the ax ! " 

" No ; let 's roll it into the house ! " 



HOW THE BEAR DISGRACED HIMSELF 129 

" It 's money ! " 

'' It 's nails ! " 

" Bring it in to the fire," said Lieutenant Coleman, going 
ahead with the torch. So they rolled the tough old cask, 
chink-a-ty-chink, around the cabin and up to the house, 
into the open door and across the earthen floor, and set it 
on end on the stone hearth. They were reeking with per- 
spiration. Coleman threw the torch upon the smoldering 
logs, and by the time Bromley had the ax there was a 
ruddy light through the room. 

" Stand back," he cried as he swung the ax aloft. 

Three times the ax rang on the head of the cask, the 
firelight glittering in the eyes of the soldiers, before the 
strong head gave way on one side, and three golden guineas 
bounced out on to the hearth. Bromley dropped the ax, 
and then all three, without deigning to notice the gold 
pieces upon the floor, thrust their hands deep down into 
the shining mass of gold coin. 

All hustled and pushed one another at the opening. 
Philip was on the point of striking out right and left in 
sheer excitement ; and in their scramble the cask was over- 
turned so that the yellow pieces poured out upon the 
floor and the hearth, and some flopped into the fire, while 
others roUed here and there into the dark corners of the 
room. The golden guineas which first appeared were now 
covered with gold double-eagles, and there were a few sil- 
ver coins in the bottom of the cask. 

The three soldiers hugged one another with delight. 

" We are rich ! " cried Philip. 



130 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

"Let 's count our treasure," said Coleman. "The 
double-eagles first— fifty to a thousand." 

Forgotten was the old man of the mountain, forgotten 
were their weariness and the lateness of the hour, as they 
eagerly fell a-counting. 

They piled the shining yellow columns on the mantel- 
piece ; and when that was full, without stopping to count 
the thousands, they began bunches of piles on the hard 
floor. 

They could hardly believe that such a treasure had fallen 
to their possession. 

In their greedy delight they utterly forgot the old flag 
of the thirty-five stai's, and the total defeat of the Union 
armies, as they toiled and counted. 

Philip was the first to yield to the demands of tired 
nature. With his hands full of gold, he sank down on his 
bunk and fell asleep. Lieutenant Coleman was the next ; 
and as the cock began to crow at earliest dawn, Bromley 
bolted the door for the first time since the house had been 
built, and crept exhausted into his blankets. 

The treasure was found, as shown by the diary, on 
Friday, April 14, in the year 1865, on the very night of 
the murder of the good President whom the three soldiers 
believed to be living somewhere, a monument of failure 
and incapacity. 

The entry was in a few brief words, and by the Sunday 
which followed. Lieutenant Coleman would not have ex- 
changed the four blank leaves of the diary for the whole 
treasure they had dug up. After the first excitement 




'THE CASK WAS OVEKTUKNED SO THAT THE YELLOW PIECES POUKED OUT 
UPON THE FLOOR." 



HOW THE BEAR DISGRACED HIMSELF 133 

of their discovery they began to realize that the yellow 
stamped pieces were of no value except as a medium of 
exchange, and that, as there was nothing on the mountain 
for which to exchange them, they were of no value at all. 
If they had found a saucepan or a sack of coffee in the 
cask, they would have had some reason to rejoice. 

So it fell out that within a week's time the gold was 
looked upon as so much lumber, and the cask which held 
it was kicked into a dark corner, neglected and despised. 
Some of the coins were even trodden under foot, and 
others lay among the chips at the door. 

On the evening of the second Sunday after the discov- 
ery of the gold, they sat together outside the door of the 
house, and tried to think of some likely thing the cask 
might have held more useless than the guineas and double- 
eagles ; and, hard as they tried, they could name nothing 
more worthless. The result was that they turned away to 
their beds, feeling poor and dissatisfied, and down on their 
luck. 

Now it happened, as the three soldiers lay asleep in their 
bunks that night, and while Tumbler slept too, with his 
nose and his hairy paws in the Hght, cool ashes of the fire- 
place (for the nights were warm now), there came up a 
brisk wind which blew across the mountain from the 
southwest. This rising wind went whistling on its way, 
tossing the tree-tops, up on the hill above the birches, 
whirling the dry leaves across the plateau, scattering them 
on the field below the ledge, and even dropping some 
stragglers away down into the Cove far below. 



134 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

At first this wind only shook the tuft of grass that over- 
hung the lost envelop, and then, as it grew stronger, 
whirled it from its snug hiding-place, and tumbled it over 
and over among the dry chestnut-burs and the old, gray, 
dead limbs. 

If the envelop came to a rest, this wind was never con- 
tent to leave its plaything alone for long. When it landed 
the little paper against a stump and held it fluttering there 
until that particular gust was out of breath, the envelop 
fell to the ground of its own weight, only to be picked up 
again and tossed on, little by little, always in the same 
direction, until at last it lay exposed on the brow of the 
hill to a braver and stronger blast, which lifted it high into 
the air and sent it sailing over the roof of the house. 

This envelop, with the names of the three soldiers and 
their hiding-place written out in a fail*, round hand, might 
have sailed along on the southwest wind until it fell at the 
door of the post-of&ce in the Cove but for the queer way 
it had of navigating the air. It would turn over and over 
on its way, or shoot up, or dart to one side, or take some 
unexpected course ; and so just as it was sailing smoothly 
above the house, its sharp edge tui'ned in the wind, and 
with a backward dive it struck hard on the rock below 
Philip's leach. Just a breath of wind turned it over 
and over on the stone, until it fell noiselessly into the 
pool of lye. 

Now, Lieutenant Coleman chanced to come out first in 
the morning ; and when he saw the lost envelop floating on 
the dark-brown pool alongside a hen's egg, which had been 



HOW THE BEAR DISGRACED HIMSELF 135 

placed there to test the strength of the liquid, he was glad 
it had blown no farther. The paper had turned very 
yellow in the strong potash, and so he fished it out with 
a twig, and cai'ried it across to the branch by the Slow- 
John, and dipped it into the water. When he picked it 
out it was still slimy to the touch, and the letters had 
faded a little. He brushed a word with his finger, and the 
letters dissolved under his eyes. 

He gave a great cry of joy ; for in that instant he saw 
the possibiUty of converting into blank paper, for keeping 
their records, the five hundred and ninety-four pages of 
the Revised Army Regulations of 1863. 




CHAPTER XIII 

HOW THE BEAR DISTINGUISHED HIMSELP 

;F the old man of the mountain was not in his 
grave, where was he ? He had certainly not 
gone back to the world and left the buried 
treasure behind him. If the grave had been 
empty, the soldiers might have suspected foul play. 
Josiah Woodring, who had been his agent and provider, 
had already been five years in Ms own grave at the time 
they had arrived on the mountain. As long as they be- 
lieved that the bones of the old man were quietly at rest 
under the oak slab in the garden spot, the condition of the 
hut, neglected and going to decay, was sufficient evidence 
that he had died there, and that no one had occupied it for 
more than five years before. With almost his last breath 
Josiah had announced his death to the doctor from the 
settlement; and under such solemn circumstances it was 
impossible to believe that he had stated anything but the 
truth. He had not mentioned, it is true, the precise time 
when the old man died. 

After the night when the treasure was found, the three 

136 



HOW THE BEAR DISTINGUISHED HIMSELF 137 

soldiers, to thoroughly satisfy themselves, had cleared 
away the earth down to the bed-rock. Indeed, the cask 
itself was evidence enough that the bones of the old man 
were not below it, for he himself must have buried that. 
If Josiah had known of its existence, it would certainly 
have traveled down through the settlement in his two-steer 
cart, Kke any other honest cask, and neither cattle nor 
driver would have ever come back. After taking such a 
load to market, Josiah would have established himself in 
luxury in his ignorant way, and probably cut a great 
splurge in the " low country," with no end of pomp and 
vulgarity. 

The three soldiers studied this problem with much care, 
weighing all the evidence for and against. They even hit 
upon a plan of determining when the old man came limp- 
ing through the settlement of Cashiers behind Josiah's cart, 
covered with dust, and staggering under the weight of his 
leathern knapsack. They emptied out the little keg of 
gold on the earthen floor a second time, and began a 
search for the latest date on the coins. Some were re- 
markably old and badly worn. A few of the guinea pieces 
bore the heads of the old Georges and " Dei gratia Eex," 
and 17— this and 17— that, and some of the figures were 
as smooth as the pate, and as blind as the eyes, of the 
king on the coin. The newest double-eagles— and there 
were quite a number of them — bore the date 1833, so it 
must have been in that year or the year following that the 
old man without a name had given up the world and be- 
come a hermit on the mountain. 



138 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

They decided that he must have had his own ideas about 
the vanity of riches, and that after doling out his gold, or, 
more likely, his small silver pieces, with exceeding stingi- 
ness to Josiah for the small services rendered him, when 
he saw his end approaching, he had buried the cask of 
treasure, and set up the slab above it, trusting to the 
superstition with which the mountain people regarded the 
desecration of a grave to protect the gold for all time. It 
would certainly have protected it from any examination 
by the soldiers but for the strange behavior of the bear, 
who had no delicate scruples. The old man had probably 
told Josiah, with a cunning leer in his eyes, that the empty 
grave was a bhnd to deceive any one who might climb to 
the top of the mountain, as the hunters had done long be- 
fore, and very likely he had given him a great big silver 
half-dollar to wink at this little plan. When death did 
really come at last to claim its own, it was evident that 
Josiah, faithful to the old man's request, had either taken 
his remains down the mountain or buried them somewhere 
on the plateau without mound or slab to reveal the place, 
and, as likely as not, he had found enough small change 
in the old miser's pockets to pay him for his trouble. 

Thus the mystery of the old man of the mountain was 
settled by the three soldiers, after much discussion, and 
the cask of gold was trundled back into the dark comer 
of the house, where they threw their waste, and such gui- 
neas and double-eagles as had joggled out upon the floor 
were kicked after it. 

Directly after the lost envelop had turned up in the 



HOW THE BEAR DISTINGUISHED HIMSELF 139 

pool of lye, Lieutenant Coleman had made his arrange- 
ments for the manufacture of blank paper for the diary. 
The Blue Book was his personal property, but before 
commencing its destruction he counseled with Bromley, 
who, as a man of letters, he felt, under the circumstances, 
had an equal interest with himself in the fate of one half 
of their common library. Bromley, seated on the bank 
alongside the leach, was engaged at the time in making a 
birch broom, and as he threw down the bunch of twigs a 
shade of disappointment overspread his handsome face. 
He said that he had never thoroughly appreciated the 
work of the learned board of compilers until his present 
exile, and that it contained flights of eloquence and scraps 
of poetry— if you read between the lines. 

" But, putting all joking aside," said Bromley, " begin 
with a single leaf by way of experiment, and let us see 
first what will be the effect on the fiber of the paper ; and 
then, if everything works well, we will first sacrifice the 
index and the extracts from the Acts of that renegade 
Congress whose imbecility has blotted a great nation from 
the map of the world." 

Lieutenant Coleman had more confidence in the result 
of the experiment they were about to make than had 
Bromley, for the increased length of his entry in the diary 
shows that he was no longer economizing paper : 

"April 26, 1865. Wednesday. We have cut out ten 
leaves of the index of the Blue Book, which we scattered 
loosely on the surface of the lye in the cavity of the rock. 



140 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

After twenty minutes I removed a leaf which had under- 
gone no perceptible change in appearance, and washed it 
thoroughly in running water. While so doing I was 
pleased to find that with the lightest touch of my fingers 
the ink dissolved, leaving underneath only a faint trace of 
the letters, which would in no way interfere with my writ- 
ing. It required much patience to cleanse the paper of 
the shmy deposit of potash. 

"Thursday, April 27, 1865. Of the leaves prepared 
yesterday, two, which were less carefully washed than the 
others, are somewhat yellowed by the potash and show 
signs of brittleness. 

"April 30. We have continued our paper-making ex- 
periments, and find that a longer bath in a weaker solu- 
tion of lye has the same effect on the ink, and is less 
injurious to the fiber of the paper. Philip has burned a 
lot of holes in one of the cracker-boxes, in which we 
place the leaves, leaving them to soak in the running 
water." 

Thus it turned out that the dangerous envelop, by a 
freak of the sportive wind, was made to play an important 
part in the economy of the exiles, while the cask of gold 
stood neglected in the corner, and the summer of 1865 
began with no lack of paper on which to record its events. 
Both Philip and the bear had been in temporary disgrace, 
the one for losing the tell-tale envelop, and the other for 
disturbing the sacred quiet of a grave. Both cases of 
misbehavior had resulted in important discoveries, but 



HOW THE BEAE DISTINGUISHED HIMSELF 141 

the mishap of Philip had produced such superior benefits 
that the bear was fairly distanced in the race. This may 
have been the reason that prompted Tumbler to try his 
hand, or rather his paw, agam, for he was a much cleverer 
bear than you would think to look at his small eyes and 
flat skull. At any rate, one hot morning in July he put 
his foot in it once more, and very handsomely, too, for the 
benefit of his masters. 

It was Philip who caught the first view of him well up 
on the trunk of the tallest chestnut on the plateau, which, 
growing in a sheltered place under the northwest hill, 
had not been dwarfed and twisted by the winds like its 
fellows higher up. At the moment he was discovered, he 
was licking his paw in the most peaceful and contented 
way, while the air about his head was thick with a small 
cloud of angry bees, darting furiously among the limbs 
and thrusting their hot stings into his shaggy coat, seem- 
ing to disturb him no more than one small gnat can dis- 
turb an ox. The soldiers had been deprived of sweets 
since the last of the sugar had been used, in the early 
winter, and a supply of honey would just fit the cravings 
of their educated taste. Share and share alike, bear and 
man, was the unwritten law of Sherman Territory, and 
so, while Philip shouted for the ax, he began to throw 
clubs at Tumbler, which were so much larger and more 
persuasive than the stings of the bees that the bear began 
promptly to back his way down the trunk of the tree. 

Coleman and Bromley appeared in a jiffy, casting off 
their jackets and rolling up their sleeves as they came. 



142 THE LAST THEEE SOLDIEES 

When the chips began to fly, Tumbler sat down to watch, 
evidently feeling that some superior intelligence was at 
work for his benefit, while the stupid bees kept swarming 
about the hole above, except a few stray ones who had 
not yet got tired of burrowing into the shaggy coat of the 
bear, and these now turned their attention to the men and 
were promptly knocked down by wisps of grass in the 
hands of Coleman and Philip, while Bromley plied the ax. 
If only they had had a supply of sulphur, by waiting until 
the bees were settled at night, they could have burned 
some in the opening made by the ax, and with the noxious 
fumes destroyed the last bee in the tree. Then, too, if 
they had been in less of a hurry they might have waited 
until a frosty morning in November had benumbed the 
bees ; but in that case Tumbler would have eaten all the 
honey he could reach with his paws. 

As it was, the swarm extended so low that, as soon as 
the ax opened the first view into the hollow trunk, the 
bees began to appear, and the opening had to be stuffed 
with grass, and a bucket of water which Philip brought 
did not come amiss before the chopping was done. All 
this time Tumbler licked his jaws, and kept his beady eyes 
fixed on the top of the tree, like a good coon dog, and 
never stirred his stumps until, with the last blow of the 
ax, the old tree creaked, and swayed at the top, and feU 
with a great crash down the hill. 

The three soldiers ran off to a safe distance as soon as 
the tree began to fall, while Tumbler, after regarding 
their flight with a look of disgust, walked deliberately into 







'THEY DROVE HIil OFF WITH STICKS AJS'D STONES.' 



HOW THE BEAR DISTINGUISHED HIMSELF 145 

the thick of the battle, and began to cninch the dripping 
comb as coolly as a pig eats corn. The brittle trunk of 
the old tree had split open as it fell, and for twenty feet 
of its length the mass of yellow honey lay exposed to the 
gaze of the men, while the infuriated bees darkened the 
air above it, and made a misty halo about the head of the 
happy bear. 

The happiness of Tumbler was not altogether uninter- 
rupted, for the soldiers drove him off now and again with 
sticks and stones; but however far he retired from the 
tree, he was surrounded and defended by such an army of 
bees that it was quite out of the question to capture him. 
There was no end of the honey ; but the worst of it was, 
the bear was eating the whitest and newest of the combs, 
and when at last his greedy appetite was satisfied, and he 
came of his own accord to the house, he brought such 
disagreeable company with him that the soldiers got out 
through the door and windows as best they could, leaving 
him in undisputed possession— very much as his lamented 
mother had held the fort on that night when her little 
cub. Tumbler, had slept in the ashes the year before. 

There was nothing else to be done but to walk about for 
the rest of the day ; for until nightfall there was a line of 
bees from the house to the tree. The soldiers secured the 
bear by closing the door and windows, but it was not yet 
clear how they could obtain the honey. Coleman and 
Bromley were city-bred, but Philip had been brought up 
in the country, and he had received some other things 
from his uncle besides kicks and cuffs and a knowledge 



146 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

of how to run a mill. He remembered the row of hives 
under the cherry-trees beyond the race, and how the new 
swarms had come out, and been sawed off with the limbs 
in great bunches, or called out of the air by drumming on 
tin pans, and how at last they had been enticed into a hive 
sprinkled inside with sweetened water. 

So, under Philip's directions, a section of a hollow log 
was prepared, covered at the top and notched at the bot- 
tom, and pierced with cross-sticks to support the comb. 
As a temporary bench for it to rest upon, they blocked up 
against the back wall of the house the oak slab, which 
they no longer respected as a gravestone. 

After it became quite dark, the bees had so far settled 
that a few broken pieces of honeycomb, which had been 
tossed off into the grass from the falling tree, were secured 
to sweeten the new hive, and it was finally propped up on 
the rubber poncho in front of the thickest bunch of bees. 
Tumbler was kept a close prisoner in the house, and early 
the next morning the bees began crowding after their 
queen into their new house, and by the afternoon they 
were carrying in the honey and wax on their legs. So it 
was the second night after cutting the bee-tree before the 
soldiers removed the hive, wrapped about with a blanket, 
to the bench behind the house, and got access to the 
honey in the broken log. There was so much of it that, 
after filling every dish they could spare, they were forced 
to empty the gold on to the earthen floor, and fill the cask 
with some of the finest of the combs. 

What remained was given up to the bear and the bees, 



HOW THE BEAR DISTINGUISHED HIMSELF 147 

who got on more pleasantly together than you can think ; 
and in time they cleaned out the old log and scoured the 
wood as if they had been so many housemaids. 

During the remainder of the summer the gold lay 
neglected in the corner together with certain wilted pota- 
toes and fat pine-knots and the sweepings of the floor. 
If a shining coin turned up now and then in some unex- 
pected place, it doubtless served to remind Coleman how 
handy these small tokens of exchange might be if there 
were any other person in aU their world of whom they 
could buy an iron pot or an onion ; or it may have sug- 
gested to the clever brain of Bromley some scheme of 
utilizing the pile as raw material. Worthless as the gold 
was in its present form, in the hands of the soldiers so 
fertile of resource and so clever in devices to accompKsh 
their ends, it was not possible for so much good metal to 
remain altogether useless. They soon saw that, if they 
had the appliances of a forge, they could tip their wooden 
spades with gold, and make many dishes and household 
goods. So after the harvest they set to work in good 
earnest to build a smithy, and equip it in all respects as 
weU as their ingenuity and limited resources would per- 
mit. 

The first thing they did was to dig a charcoal pit, into 
which they piled several cords of dry chestnut wood, set- 
ting the sticks on end in a conical heap. Over this they 
placed a layer of turf and a thick outer covering of earth, 
leaving an opening at the top. Several holes for air were 
pierced about the base of the heap, and then some fat 



148 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

pine-knots which had been laid in about the upper open- 
ing, or chimney, were set on fire. These burned briskly 
at first, and then died down to a wreath of smoke, which 
was left to sweat the wood for three days, after which the 
holes at the base were stopped and others made half-way 
up the pile. Late in November the dry, warm earth about 
the charcoal pit was a favorite resort of Tumbler, and he 
tried several times to dig into the smoldering mass, with 
results more amusing to the soldiers and less satisfactory 
to himself than those of any digging he had ever tried 
before. 

When the smoke ceased to come out of these holes at 
the sides, they were closed up and others pierced lower 
down, and so on until the process was complete. 

While this slow combustion was going on, a pen was 
built about the fireplace of the old hut and filled in with 
earth to a convenient height for the forge. The flue was 
narrowed down to a small opening for the proper draft, 
and a practical pumping-bellows, made of two pointed 
slabs of wood and the last rubber blanket, was hung in 
place. Besides nailing, the edges were made air-tight 
with a mixture of pitch and tarry sediment from the 
bottom of the charcoal pit, and the first nozzle of the 
bellows was a stick of elder, which was very soon replaced 
by a neat casting of gold. 

Bromley was the smith, and his first pincers were rather 
weak contrivances of platted wire; but after half the 
barrel of one of the carbines had with the head of the 
hatchet been hammered out on a smooth stone into a steel 




MAKIisG A HUXDEED-DOLLAK CASTEE. 



HOW THE BEAR DISTINGUISHED HIMSELF 151 

plate to cover their small anvil-block, it was possible to 
make of the iron that remained a few serviceable tools. 

While they now had good reason to be sorry that the 
gold was not iron, they were thankful for their providen- 
tial supply of the softer metal, and Bromley toiled and 
smelted and hammered and welded and riveted, in the 
smoke of the forge and the steam of the water-vat, and 
turned out little golden conveniences that would have 
made a barbaric king or a modern millionaire green with 
envy. So it came about that, poor as they were, the three 
exiled soldiers, without friends or country they could call 
their own, sat on three-legged stools shod with hundred- 
dollar casters, and drank spring-water from massy golden 
cups fit for the dainty lips of a princess. 




CHAPTER XIV 

WHICH GIVES A NEARER VIEW OF THE NEIGHBOR 
CALLED "SHIFLESS" 

•ITH the events which closed the last chapter the 
three soldiers had been more than a year on 
the mountain. They had become thoroughly 
settled in their delusion, and more contented 
in their way of hving than they would have thought it 
possible, in the beginning, ever to become. 

The long war had come to an end in a way of its own, 
and without any regard for the messages flagged from 
Upper Bald. The soldiers of both armies had been dis- 
banded, and the good news had found its way into the 
mountain settlements at about the time the bear had dis- 
covered the bee-tree. 

Far and near the Union outliers had come in from their 
hiding-places among the rocks, and were gradually settling 
their differences with their Confederate neighbors, in which 
delicate process there was just enough shooting to prevent 
peace from settling too abruptly among the mountains. 
In Cashiers valley there was scarcely any difference of 

152 



A NEARER VIEW OF NEIGHBOR "SHIFLESS" 153 

opinion, and the old postmaster in the Cove, who had at- 
tended strictly to his duties and never spied on his neigh- 
bors, was not molested under the new order of things, or 
even deprived of his office. 

On the very evening when the fires were first lighted 
under the charcoal pit, it happened that two men were 
driving along a stony road which led into the valley over 
a spur of Little Terrapin. All day the rain had been 
falling steadily, and the team showed unmistakable signs 
of weariness, the sodden ears of the mule flapping de- 
jectedly outward, and the steer halting to rest on every 
sheK of the descent, as the light wagon creaked and 
splashed down the mountain in full view of the wooded 
face of old Whiteside, now relieved boldly against a twi- 
light sky which showed signs of clearing. The two men 
sat crouched on the wet seat, with a border of sodden 
bedquilt showing under their rubber coats, their wool 
hats dripping down their shining backs, and the barrels 
of their guns pointing to right and left out of the dry 
embrace in which the locks rested. As they mounted the 
next ridge, the major was getting a little comfort out of 
a spluttering pipe, and Sandy was looking hopefully be- 
tween the horns of the steer at the patch of clearing sky. 

" There 's some humans a-outlyin' on old Whiteside to- 
night," said Sandy. " I lowed them critters had all come in." 

''What yer talkin' 'bout?" growled the major. 

" I 'm a-sayin'," said the other, " that there 's somebody 
campin' on the mountain. It 'pears to be gone now, but 
I certainly seen a hght up thar." 



154 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

The major only grunted as if the matter were of no 
consequence, and then both relapse into silence as the 
creaking wheels jolt over the rocks and grind down the 
mountain behind the bracing cattle. The form of the 
steer grows whiter in the gathering darkness. The men 
are evidently familiar with the country, for presently they 
turn off the big road into a cart-track, the sides of the 
wagon brushing against the dripping bushes as they push 
through the darkness with the fewest possible words. 
Now and then they see a light in the settlement, glimmer- 
ing damply through the trees, and dancing and disap- 
pearing before them, as the wagon lurches and rolls upon 
the weary animals struggling for a foothold on the 
shelving rocks. At last they trot out on a sandy level 
and pass a log barn, where a group of men are playing 
cards by a fire. A little farther on a low hne of lights 
becomes a row of windows casting a ruddy glow under 
the dripping trees, and shining out upon the very wood- 
pile where, according to Philip, the man he had named 
" Shif less " was wont to sit and watch the milking. 

" Hello, inside ! " cried the major, hailing the house. 
" Is Elder Long to home ? " 

'' Well, he ain't fur off," replied a tall woman in a caHco 
sunbonnet and a homespun gown, who came out on the 
side porch, shading her eyes with her hand. " Jest light 
out o' yer hack an' come in to the fire, an' I '11 carry the 
critters round to the stable." 

Sandy and the major clambered out of the wagon upon 
the chip dirt, with a polite inquiry after the news, to which 



A NEAEER VIEW OF NEIGHBOR "SHITLESS" 155 

the woman, as she seated herself on the bedquilt and 
gathered up the reins, replied that "the best news she 
knowed of was that the war was done ended." 

The travelers walked stiffly into the house, carrying 
theu- guns, besides which the major held a cow-skin knap- 
sack by the straps, which he dropped on the floor inside 
the door. Both men said *' Howdy " as they stalked over 
to the fireplace, peering from under their hats at the 
shadowy forms of a number of women sitting in the un- 
certain light, who answered ''Howdy" in return; and 
then, while the men took off their rubber coats, one 
woman, bolder than the others, stirred the fire and thmst 
a pine-knot behind the backlog. 

Presently the ruddy flames leaped up in the stone 
chimney and picked out the brass buttons on two butter- 
nut-and-gray uniforms, and revealed the faces of the 
women, evidently not over-pleased at what they saw. 
There was an awkward silence in the room for a moment, 
and then a tall man entered, followed by two others, and 
then a party of three. Each man carried his gun, and 
each said " Howdj'-," to which the strangers responded ; but 
the conversation showed no signs of being general until 
the elder came in, unarmed, as became his peaceful calling. 

His gun and powder-horn, however, were handy in a 
rack over the door, and as soon as his benevolent face 
appeared in the firelight the man Sandy advanced from 
the corner behind the chimney and held out his hand. 

" Ye may have disremembered me, elder, in three years' 
time," said Sandy, rather sheepishly. 



156 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

"I hain't forgot ye," said the elder, gravely, stepping 
back a pace and crossing his hands behind his back. " I 
hain't forgot ye. Been in the Confederate army, I reckon," 
—at which remark there was a rustle among the elder's 
friends and a murmur from the women. 

" Jes so," said Sandy, not at all disturbed by his cold 
reception; ''an' likewise my friend the major— Major 
McKinney." 

" Sir to you," said the major, with a wave of his hand. 

"We 're a-studyin'," said Sandy, '"bout campin' down 
in this yer valley—" 

" We 're all o' one mind here, Sandy Marsh," exclaimed 
Mrs. Long, who had come in from the stable. "We 're 
Union to a man." 

" That 's what we be in Cashiers," snapped one of the 
neighbors, who was fondling his gun ; and then there fol- 
lowed a little movement of boots and rifle-stocks on the 
floor, which caused the major to get upon his feet with the 
intention of making an explanation. There was a hostile 
flash in his eye, however, which Elder Long observed, and 
stretching out his long arm, he pointed to the major's chair. 

" Now set down, comrade, do," said the elder, and then, 
to the others: "These two men are my guests to-night. 
They '11 have the best that the house affords, an' ye 'd bet- 
ter be layin' the supper-table, mother. We '11 feed them an' 
their critters, an' welcome, an' when day comes they '11 
move on. Like mother put hit, we 're of one way of think- 
in' in Cashiers. No offense, gentlemen, but hit 's plumb 
certain we should n't agree." 



A NEARER VIEW OF NEIGHBOR "SHIFLESS" 157 

Under the advice of the elder, the men stacked their 
weapons together, the long rifles with the army guns ; and 
after supper was over the whole party returned to the fire 
in an amiable and talkative mood, but with a perfect un- 
derstanding that the two Confederates would move on in 
the morning. 

This point having been settled, the travelers were lis- 
tened to with the interest the stranger always receives in 
remote settlements where new faces and new ideas seldom 
come ; and the men of the valley, who had been sullen and 
suspicious before they had broken bread, now laughed at 
the di'oll adventures of the major and vied with him in 
story-teUing on their own account. 

The women had mostly been silent listeners up to the 
time when Sandy mentioned the light he had seen on the 
crest of Whiteside Mountain, as they came over Little 
Terrapin. The major hastened to express a doubt of his 
companion having seen anything of the kind, which the 
other as stoutly contended he had seen with his eyes open, 
and that the light was not hghtning or a stray star among 
the trees, but real fire. 

" Ye need n't waste time study in' 'bout that light, Sandy 
Marsh," said Mrs. Long, throwing the last stick on the 
fire, which was only a heap of glowing embers. " 'T ain't 
worth the candle, since everybody in Cashiers knows that 
mountain is harnted." 

''And has been ever since the little old man died up 
thar all by hisself ," chimed in little Miss Bennett. 

" I ain't a great believer in harnts," said the elder, "but 



158 THE LAST THEEE SOLDIERS 

if you viewed anything like fii'e up tliar, hit certainly wa 'n't 
built by human hands, for there ain't no possible way for 
a human to git there." 

"There 's the bridge Josiah Woodring built," Sandy 
ventured to say. " I crossed over to hit myself once afore 
the war-time." 

" Hit feU into the gorge of its own weight an' rotten- 
ness, more 'n a year back," said the elder, " an' hit 's cer- 
tain that no man has set foot on the top of Whiteside 
since." 

The fresh stick, which was only a branch, burned up 
and threw a flickering light on the grave faces about the 
shadowy room, in the midst of a general silence which 
was broken by the harsh voice of the mistress of the 
house. 

'' Hit 's obleeged to be the harnts, an' comes 'long o' the 
bones o' the little old man not havin' had Christian burial 
up yonder." 

'' You see," said the elder, '' his takin' off wa' n't regular, 
bein' altogether unbeknownst, otherwise I 'd 'a' seen he 
had gospel service said over him that would 'a' left him 
layin' easy in his grave." 

'' Which hit stands to reason he can't do now," put in 
Mrs. Long, " under that heathen inscription they do say 
is writ on his headstone. If he really wanted to be forgot, 
he 'd better left word with Jo-siah to bury him without 
so much as markin' the place ; an' everybody knows that 
unmarked graves holds uneasy spirits." 

" Accordin' to that doctrine. Mis' Long," said the major, 



A NEARER VIEW OF NEIGHBOR "SHIFLESS" 159 

" whole regiments of harnts 'u'd be marchin' an' counter- 
marchin' over some battle-fields I know." 

" 'T ain't them that has plenty o' company that gits lonely 
an' uneasy," replied the woman, very promptly, "but such 
as lays by themselves on the tops of the mountains or 
anywheres in the unknown kentry." 

" Old Whiteside hain't never brought luck to anybody 
that owned hit," said a piping voice from a niche behind 
the fireplace, where Granny White sat in her accustomed 
rocker. The old woman was the mother of the mistress 
of the house, and an authority far and near on all things 
supernatural. Her white frilled cap was just visible be- 
hind the stones of the jamb, and even the strangers listened 
with respect to what she had to say, in the ghostly silence 
and in the half-light of the dying embers. 

"I 've lived in the shadder of hit for eighty year, an' 
ther' -ain't many that 's been atop o' old Whiteside. Arter 
Josiah built the bridge, the Hooper horned critters lay 
across the gorge one summer, an' two o' the best cows 
lost their calves. That must 'a' been in '50. Hay, Larkin, 
son— '50, wa' n't hit?" 

" That 's true. Aunt Lucy," said the elder ; '' an' a great 
mystery hit was at the time. Some suspicioned that the 
little old man might 'a' killed 'em for meat, but such of us 
as went up found his cabin empty, an' we could no more 
find him than if he had been a harnt hisself." 

This statement was received in silence, which was pres- 
ently broken by the garrulous voice of the old woman. 

" Woe ! woe ! unto them that ventures onto the danger- 

9* 



160 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

ous mountains. The last man knowed to have set foot on 
Whiteside was Hiram Kitchen, an' let me tell ye the harnts 
had a hand in burnin' Hiram Kitchen's cabin on Christmas 
day an' totin' him off along with his prisoners. Hit was 
a plain judgment ag'in' disbelief. Hay, Larkin, son? 
You 're I'arned in Scripture." 

The elder only gazed at the feathery embers. 

"Wherever the old man o' the mountain is a-layin'," 
continued granny, "he ain't restin' easy, an' ther' might 
be a reason for hit, too. He had plenty o' silver— plenty o' 
silver." Her voice sank to a husky whisper. " An' hit 's 
a monstrous lonely place up yonder— somebody might 'a' 
murdered him. Hay, Larkin, son ? Somebody might 'a' 
done that." 

The old woman's words had a powerful effect on the 
simple crowd assembled in the shadowy room. They were 
prone to superstitious beliefs; and if the two strangers, 
who had seen more of the world and had fought in real 
battles, were less impressed than the others, they kept a 
discreet silence, in which the elder rose to his feet and 
uttered the evening prayer, not forgetting to ask that they 
might be guarded from unseen enemies and from invisible 
dangers. 

In the morning, after the two Confederates had driven 
away with their mule-and-ox team in search of a more 
congenial neighborhood, the elder seated himself on the 
woodpile to smoke his morning pipe and watch the 
milking. 

"Mother," said he, after a while, when his wife came 



A NEARER VIEW OF NEIGHBOR "SHIFLESS" 161 

forward between the well-filled pails, " I don't believe in 
harnts burnin' houses, but thar must 'a' been some spirit 
information pre-ju-dicial to Hiram Kitchen that I never 
could git through my head. The last thing I did afore I 
rode off to preach Granny Taylor's funeral sermon was to 
go up on the hiU yonder an' satisfy myself that every- 
thing was quiet around Hiram's. I never let on to the 
postmaster that there was any Yankee prisoners around, 
an' if he knew of hit, he kept hit to hisself. Hit cer- 
tainly looks, mother, as if the spirits had a hand in hit, 
an' a bad business hit was." 

" That 's hit, Larkin, son," said Aunt Lucy, who leaned 
on her staff by the fence among the great purple cabbage- 
heads. " When there 's mischief goin' on ye can depend 
on hit the harnts has a hand in hit. An' hit 's a fair moun- 
tain, too," she continued, shading her eyes with her hand 
and gazing up at the wooded mass of Whiteside, behind 
which the sun was rising. " Hit 's fair to view, an' inno- 
cent-appearin', but there 's few has set foot on the top o' 
hit." 

The mountain, which harbored no spirits other than the 
guileless souls of the three deluded soldiers, was indeed 
fail' to look upon, towering above its feUows and above 
the sweet valley of Cashiers. A curtain of purple haze 
softened the rich greens of the forest which clothed the 
mountain on the valley side, and now, after the rain, 
white clouds of vapor were beginning to puff out as if 
huge concealed boilers were generating steam behind the 
trees. 




CHAPTER XV 

THE GOLDEN MILL 

|HREE years have come and gone since the forge 
was built, and the three misguided patriots, 
still loyal to their vow and to the thirty-three 
stars on their dear old flag, are sitting together 
in the fair sunlight of a Sabbath morning on the steps of 
the golden mill. Tumbler the bear, very shaggy and 
faded as to his mangy coat, is sleeping comfortably on the 
dusty path that winds away to the house. Coleman's 
tawny and curly beard and the black hau- on Bromley's 
face have grown long and thick, and the down which be- 
f oretime was on Philip's lip and chin now flares out from 
his neck and jaws like a weak red flame. Philip sits a 
little apart from the others, with the telescope in its lea- 
thern case strapped on his back, and there is a look of 
sadness in his face and in his wandering, downcast eyes. 

Three years have wi'ought gi-eat changes in the plateau. 
The harvests have been abundant, and at a little distance 
from where the men sit purple grapes hang in great clus- 
ters from the vines which have been grown from cuttings 

162 



THE GOLDEN MILL 163 

of that solitary plant which overhung the branch on the 
July day when they fii'st came down its bank with the 
captain of the troopers and Andy the guide. 

The building of the mill has been a work of time, and 
it is not yet a month since Bromley emptied the first yellow 
grist into the flaring hopper. Two long years were spent 
in shaping the upper and the nether stones, and the new 
mill was rightly called '' golden," for five thousand guineas 
from the mints of George the Fourth and good Queen 
Vic. were melted in the forge and beaten into straps and 
bolts and rings and bands for the wooden machinery. 
Gold ghstens in the joints of the di'ipping- wheel, and 
gleams in the darkness at the bottom of the hopper, where 
the half of a priceless cavalry boot-leg distributes the corn 
between the grinding-stones. The hopper itself is rimmed 
with gold, and the circular wooden box, rough hewn, that 
covers the stones is bolted and belted with the metal else- 
where called precious; and from the half -roof of oak 
shingles to the slab floor, gold without stint enriches and 
solidifies the structure. It plates the handle and caps the 
top of the pole that shifts the water on to the wheel, and 
the half-door which shuts out Tumbler the bear swings on 
golden hinges and shuts with a golden hasp. 

Healthy living and abundance of food have rounded the 
lusty brown limbs of the three soldiers and charged their 
veins with good red blood ; but alas ! in the midst of the 
abundance of nature and the opulence of the golden mill, 
by reason of their tattered and scant covering they are 
pitiful objects to look upon as they sit together in the 



164 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

sunlight. The smart uniforms with yellow facings are 
gone, and the long cavalry boots, and the jaunty caps with 
cross-sabers above the flat vizors ; and so little remains of 
their former clothing that they might almost blush in the 
presence of the bear. 

Lieutenant Coleman has some rags of blue flannel hang- 
ing about his broad shoulders, which flutter in the soft 
wind where they are not gathered under the waistband 
of a pair of new and badly made canvas trousers having 
the letters '' U. S." half lost in the clumsy seam of the 
right leg and a great "A" on the back, which sufficiently 
indicates that they have been made from the stiff cloth of 
the tent called " A," and that, if required, they could easily 
stand alone. Such as they are, these trousers, on account 
of their newness and great durability, seem to be the pride 
of the colony. They are certainly much smarter than 
Philip's, which are open with rents and patched with rags 
of various shades of blue, and tied about his legs with 
strings, and finally hung from his bare, tanned shoulders, 
under the telescope, by a single strip of canvas. 

All three of the men have hard, bare feet, and the tunic 
or gown of faded blue cloth which hangs from Bromley's 
neck shows by its age that the overcoat-capes which were 
sacrificed to make it were sacrificed long ago. This what- 
you-may-call-it is girded in at the waist by a coil of young 
grape-vine covered with tender green leaves, and fringed 
at bottom with mingled tatters of blue cloth and old yeUow 
lining. And this completes the costume of the dignified 
corporal who enlisted from Harvard in his junior year. 




THE GOLDEN MILL. 



THE GOLDEN MILL 167 

except some ends of trousers which hang about his knees 
like embroidered pantalets. 

With aU their poverty of apparel, the persons of the 
three soldiers, and their clothing as far as practicable, are 
sweet and clean, which shows that at least two of them 
have lost none of that pride which prompted them to stay- 
on the mountain, and which still keeps up their courage 
in the autumn of the good year '69. And now let us see 
what it is that ails Philip. 

Many entries in the diary for the fifth summer on the 
mountain, which is jjust over, indicate that the conduct of 
Philip was shrouded in an atmosphere of mysterj^ which 
his companions vainly tried to penetrate. So early as 
March 12, 1869, we find it recorded : 

" Philip spends all his unemployed time in observations 
with the telescope." 

In the following April and May, entries touching on 
this subject are most frequent, and Lieutenant Coleman 
and George Bromley have many conversations about 
Welton's peculiar conduct, and record many evidences of 
a state of mind which causes them much annoyance and 
some amusement. 

" May 12. Requested Philip to remove one of the bee 
gums to the new bench. Instead of complying with my 
request, he plugged the holes with grass, removed the 
stone and board from the top, and emptied a wooden bowl 
of lye into the hive, destroying both swarm and honey. 



168 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

After this act of vandalism he entered the house, took 
doT\Ti the telescope, and, slinging it over his shoulder, 
walked away in the direction of the point of rocks, whis- 
tling a merry tune as he went." 

At another time he was asked to set the Slow-John in 
motion to crack a mess of hominy, and instead of spread- 
ing the corn on the rock he covered that receptacle with 
a layer of eggs, and hung the bucket on the long arm of 
the lever. 

Such evidences of a profound absence of mind were 
constantly occurring ; and if they were not indications of 
his desh'e to return to the world, his secret observations 
with the telescope made it plain enough that he was ab- 
sorbed in events outside the borders of Sherman Territory. 
If questioned, he assigned all sorts of imaginary reasons 
for his conduct, and at the same time he held himself 
more and more aloof from his companions, to wander 
about the plateau alone. 

During the previous winter, Philip had reported that 
one of the four young girls removed by the Confederates 
at the time of the capture of the officers had reappeared in 
the vicinity of the burned house. This fact was soon for- 
gotten by Coleman and Bromley, who were working like 
beavers, pecking the stones for the mill ; but to PliUip it 
was an event of absorbing interest. Where were the 
others? What sufferings and what indignities had the 
returned wanderer endured in her long absence, and what 
hardships and dangers had not she braved to reach her 



THE GOLDEN MILL 169 

native valley again? Gentle as Philip's nature was, he 
possessed in a marked degree the power to love and the 
hunger to be loved in return. Occasionally a man in a 
dungeon or on a desert island, or in the shadow of a scaf- 
fold, has devoted himself to a one-sided passion in circum- 
stances as baffling as those that hedged in Philip. 

The sight of this lonely girl wandering back to the 
blackened ruin in the deserted clearing furnished the 
dolorous lady his knightly fancy craved. A speck in the 
distance, he drew her to his arms in the magic lens, and 
consoled her with such words of sympathy and endear- 
ment as his fancy prompted. In short, he had the old 
disease that makes a princess out of a poor girl in cow- 
skin shoes and a homespun frock, and had it all the worse 
that she kept her distance, as this one did. In the long 
days when storms interrupted his observations, or fog 
hung over the valley, he wi"ote tender letters to his prin- 
cess on prepared leaves of his prayer-book, in which the 
grave responses of the Litany ran in faint lines, like a 
water-mark, under the burning words on the paper. 

He watched Jones and the kindly neighbors (not in- 
cluding Shifless) clearing away the wreckage and rebuild- 
ing the Smith house between the sturdy stone chimneys. 
The new cabin was divided by an open covered passage, 
through which Philip could look with the glass to the 
sunlit field beyond, and watch the Princess Smith entering 
either of the doors opposite to each other in the sides of 
the passage. 

This love of Philip's had sprung into being fuU fledged, 



170 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

without any stage of infant growth like an ordinary pas- 
sion. Besides its unsuspecting object, it was ample enough 
to take under its wings her wandering kinsfolk, dead or 
alive, and included the cow with the soundless bell which 
came to be milked in the evening by the hands of the 
princess herself, and then to crop the grass and lie in the 
dust of the road until morning. 

From the time when she waved him a banner of smoke 
at sunrise until the firelight reddened on the cabin win- 
dow, PhUip came to linger almost constantly on the rocks, 
to the neglect of his share in the labors of the little com- 
munity. When planting-time came, and hands were in 
demand to spade up the soil, his companions for the fli'st 
time secui-ed and hid away the telescope. For a day— for 
two days— Philip was uneasy, going and coming by him- 
self, doing no work, speaking to no one, scarcely partak- 
ing of food. At last the suspense and disappointment 
became unendurable, and going to Lieutenant Coleman, 
resting from his work in the shade of a spreading chest- 
nut, he threw himself at his feet and begged for the return 
of the telescope, revealing for the first time the nature of 
his infatuation. His lips once opened, poor Philip ran on 
in a rhapsody so fantastic and incoherent that the diseased 
state of his mind was at the same time made apparent. 

In the diary for July 6, Lieutenant Coleman writes : 

'' An unspeakable calamity has fallen on the dwellers in 
Sherman Territory. Reason has been blotted out in the 
mind of our companion Philip, and now we are but two 
in the company of an amiable madman." 



THE GOLDEN MILL 171 

In view of Philip's malady Lieutenant Coleman felt it 
wise to humor him with the telescope, and to try the 
effect of more active sympathy by joining him in his ob- 
servations. 

After an eager examination of the clearing in the valley, 
"Gone! Gone!" he cried in a voice of despair. "You 
have driven away my princess ! You hate her— you and 
the other one ! You hate me ! I 'm not wise enough for 
your company— you and the other one. Give me back 
my princess— give me back—" 

Taking the glass from his trembhng hand, Coleman 
leveled it on the house in the clearing ; and, happily, there 
stood the woman, midway of the passage, and on the point 
of advancing into the light. 

" Take her back, dear PhiHp," he said, returning him 
the telescope. "We will never steal her again— I and the 
other one. See, there she is ! " 

With a quick movement Philip looked, and without a 
spoken word he f eU a-laughing and crooning in his delight, 
in a way so unnatural and so uncanny that it was sadder 
to see than his excitement. 

The only chance of reclaiming Philip seemed to he in 
the direction of feigning sympathy with and interest in 
his delusion, trusting to time, in the absence of opposition, 
to bring him back to reason. 

Never after this exhibition of petulance on the rocks 
with Lieutenant Coleman did he show the slightest ten- 
dency to violence. When he came in on that particular 
evening, the lieutenant took his hand, and in a few friendly 
words told him how glad he was that aU was weU and that 



172 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

the lost was found, and ordered the flag run up in honor 
of the occasion. 

Philip looked in a dazed way at the flag, showing that 
that emblem had lost its old power to stir him with en- 
thusiasm. All that summer, when his expert advice was 
sorely needed, poor infatuated Philip took no more interest 
in the construction of the golden mill than he took in the 
spots on the moon. He was as ignorant of the affairs of 
Sherman Territory as the Princess Smith, that plain, ig- 
norant working-girl in the valley, was of his existence. 

So week after week, and month after month, through 
the long summer and into the sad autumn days, liis com- 
panions kept a melancholy watch on Philip, who wandered 
to and fro on the mountain, with the telescope in its 
leathern case strapped over his bare shoulders, as we saw 
him first in the shadow of the golden mill. 

Scantily as the three soldiers were clad at that time, 
they still had their long blue overcoats to protect them 
from the cold of winter, and broken shoes to cover theii* 
feet; and so in the short December days poor Philip, 
grown nervous and haggard with want of sleep, strapped 
the telescope outside his coat, and wandered about the 
point of rocks. 

The morning of January 10, as it dawned on the three 
forgotten soldiers, — if it may be said to have dawned at 
all,— cast a singular light on the mountain-top. It had 
come on to thaw, and the time of the winter avalanches 
was at hand. The sky overhead was of a colorless density 



THE GOLDEN MILL 173 

which was no longer a dome ; and it seemed to Philip, as 
he stood on the rocks, as if he could stretch out his hand 
and touch it. Somewhere in its depth the sun was blotted 
out. Ragged clouds settled below the mountain-top, and 
then, borne on an imperceptible wind, a sea of fog swal- 
lowed up the clouds and blotted out the valley and the 
ranges beyond, even as it had blotted out the sun, leaving 
Sherman Territory an island drifting through space. 

Philip closed the telescope with a moan, and replaced it 
in its leathern case. Even the trees on the island, and the 
rocks heaped in ledges, grew gray and indistinct, and 
presently the thick mist resolved itself into a vertical rain 
falling gently on the melting snow. The strokes of an ax 
in the direction of the house had a muffled sound, Kke an 
automatic buoy far out at sea. PhUip tui'ned with another 
sigh, and took the familiar path in the direction of the ax, 
groping his way in the mist as a mountaineer feels the 
traU in the night with his feet. 

The sound of the chopping ceases, and a great stUlness 
broods on the mountain. Evidently the chopper has 
sought shelter from the rain. Brown leaves begin to 
show where the snow has disappeared on the path, so 
familiar to the feet of the wanderer that no sound should 
be needed to toll him home. But to-day, while his feet 
are on the mountain-top, his aching heart is in the valley. 
She has gone forever from the arms of the lover she never 
saw. He sees before him the wedding of yesterday, and 
in his gentleness he is incapable of hating even his suc- 
cessful rival. He is capable only of grief. Bitter tears 



174 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

fall on his breast and on his clasped hands. A great 
aching is in his throat, and a dimness in his suffused eyes. 
He throws his arms out and presses his temples with his 
clenched hands, and mutters with a choking sound, as he 
walks. He does not know that the rain is falling on his 
upturned face. He turns to go back. He changes his 
mind and advances. He is no longer in the path. He 
has no thought of where he goes. The blades of dead 
grass, and the dry seeds and fragments of leaves, cling 
thick upon the sodden surface of his tattered boots. He 
strides on absently over the ground, parting the fog and 
cooling his feverish face in the rain ; and every step leads 
him nearer to the boulder face of the mountain where the 
great avalanches are getting ready to fall a thousand feet 
into the Cove below. 

The events of yesterday go before him. He sees the 
procession come out of the church house, the women in 
one group and the men following in another, and he and 
she going hand in hand in the advance. He feels the 
sunshine of yesterday on his head and the misery in his 
heart. 

Then it is night, and he sees the lights of the frolic at 
the cabin in the clearing. He is no longer the cheerful, 
happy Philip of other years, but a weakened, distracted 
shadow of that other Philip staggering on through the 
rain. 

He has forgotten his soldier comrades and the meaning 
of his life on the mountain. He has forgotten even his 
patriotism and the existence of the flag with thirty-three 







PHILIP ON THE EDGE OF THE PKECLPICE. 



THE GOLDEN MILL 177 

stars. Sherman Territory is receding under Ms feet, and 
the grief that he has created for himself so industriously 
and nursed so patiently is leading him on. 

A blotch of shadows to the right assumes the ghostly 
form of spreading trees, the naked branches blending 
softly in the blanket of the fog. The gnarled chestnuts, 
that looked like berry-bushes while they waited at the 
deserted cabin on that first night for the moon to go 
down, give no voice of warning, and Philip comes steadily 
on, with the telescope strapped to his back and the load in 
his heart. Under his heedless feet the dead weeds and the 
sodden leaves give way to the slippery rock. 

For a moment the slender figure crossed by the telescope 
is massed against the mist overhanging the Cove. Then 
there is a despairing cry and a futile clutching at the cruel 
ledge, and, in the silence that follows, the vertical rain, out 
of the blanket of the fog, goes on shivering its tiny lances 
on the slippery rocks. 




CHAPTER XVI 

WHICH SHOWS THAT A MISHAP IS NOT ALWAYS 
A MISFORTUNE 

, T was still early in the day when Philip fell over 
the boulder face of the mountain ; and when 
the chopping which he had heard through the 
fog ceased at the house, Bromley had indeed 
gone in, but not for shelter from the rain. He had gone 
to warn Lieutenant Coleman of the absence of their half- 
demented comrade and of the peril he ran in wandering 
about on the mountain in the fog. They felt so sure of 
finding him near the point of rocks that they went to- 
gether in that direction; but before they started Philip 
had wandered from the path, and by the time they reached 
the rocks he had put the house behind him and was walk- 
ing in the direction of the Cove. Finding no trace of him 
there, and seeing the dense mist which covered the valley 
and made observation impossible, they separated and went 
off in opposite ways, calling him by name, " Philip ! 
Philip ! " and as they got farther and farther from each 
other, " Philip ! Philip ! " came back to each faintly 

178 



A MISHAP IS NOT ALWAYS A MISFORTUNE 179 

through the fog and the rain. They made their way to 
such points as he might have found shelter under, but 
their calls brought no response. They knew that in his 
peculiar state of mind he might hear then* voices and make 
no reply, and in this was at last their only hope of his 
safety as they continued their search. 

At twelve o'clock a wind set in from the east, redou- 
bhng the rain, but rapidly dispelling the fog. In an hour 
every place where he could possibly have concealed him- 
self had been searched, and with one mind they came back 
to the point of rocks. They lay out on the wet ledge and 
looked over with fear and trembling, haK expecting to see 
his mangled body below. They could see clearly to the 
foot of the precipice, and there was nothing there but the 
smooth, trackless snow ; and then when they drew back 
they looked in each other's faces and knew for the first 
time how much they loved Phihp and how much each was 
to the other. 

They were almost certain now that he had fallen over 
one face of the mountain or the other. Yesterday they 
could have followed his track in the thin snow, but now 
the rain, which was still falling heavily, had obliterated 
one after melting what remained of the other. They went 
together down the ladders, and for its whole length along 
the base of that ledge. When they returned to the pla- 
teau, Lieutenant Coleman and Bromley were tired, and 
soaked with the rain, and crushed with the awful certainty 
that Philip had fallen over the great rock face into the 
Cove. They could neither eat nor sleep as long as there 

10* 



180 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

was a possibility of discovering any clue to his fate ; and 
so in time they came to the slippery rock in front of the 
station, where the heel of his boot or the sharp edge of the 
telescope had made a scratch on the stone that the rain 
was powerless to wash out. 

It was no use to call his name after that dreadful plunge, 
the very thought of which tied their tongues to that extent 
that the two men stood in silence over their discovery ; 
and when they could learn no more they came away hand 
in hand, without uttering a word. 

This was indeed the point where Philip had gone over 
the great rock; but by a strange good fortune his body 
had plunged into a mass of rotten snow fifty feet from the 
brink of the precipice. It was the snow of the avalanche 
making ready to fall ; and through this first bank his body 
broke its way, falling from point to point for another fifty 
feet, until he lay unconscious over the roots of the great 
icicles which hung free from the rounded ledge below him, 
dripping their substance nine hundred feet into the Cove. 

When he came to himself, chilled and sore after his 
great faU, the moon was shining softly on the snow about 
him and sparkling on the ice below. He had no recollec- 
tion of his faU, and but the vaguest remembrance of what 
had gone before. It was rather as if he had dreamed that 
he had fallen upon the avalanche, and when he had first 
opened his eyes upon the snow about him and above him, 
he tried to reason with himself that no dream could be so 
real. He remembered vaguely the autumn days by the 
golden miU, and he knew that it was not winter at all ; 



A MISHAP IS NOT ALWAYS A MISFORTUNE 181 

and yet this was real snow in which he lay bruised and 
helpless. He realized that he was almost frozen, and his 
clothing, that had been wet, was now stiffening on his 
limbs. The great shock had restored his shattered mind, 
leaving a wide blank, it is true, to be filled in for the best 
part of the year that was past. He was himself again 
now, but where it was not at first so clear. There was 
nothing to be seen above beyond the snow which hung 
over him ; but when he turned his sore body so as to look 
away from the mountain-side, his eyes rested on the long 
white roof of the Cove post-office, as he had seen it often 
before from the top of the plateau. Philip knew now that 
he was in the very heart of the avalanche. He lay on the 
very brink of the ice which might fall with the heat of 
another day's sun. At first he began to cry out for help j 
but his voice was such a small thing in the mass of snow 
against the great rock. And then he thought of the people 
from the hills who would come at noon of the next day to 
watch by the post-office to see him fall— him, Philip Wel- 
ton ! And then he thought of Coleman and Bromley, who 
must have given him up for dead ; and even of his uncle 
at the old mOl, with more of desire than he had ever felt 
for him before. He tried to drag himself a little from the 
icy brink ; but his legs and arms were numb and stiffened 
with the cold. He began to clap ^ his nerveless hands and 
stimulate the circulation of his blood by such movements 
as he could make. He had an instinctive feehng that the 
avalanche had been trembling yesterday where it clung to 
the great, black, vertical stain on the face of the boulder 



182 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

just below the trees that looked like berry-bushes from the 
road in the Cove. He knew that it would not fall during 
the night. He had no recollection of the rain. He knew 
that more heat of the sun was yet required to loosen it 
for the great plunge. It was freezing now, and every hour 
added soUdity to the surface of the snow ; and yet as he 
gained the power he feared to move, as the workman dis- 
trusts the strong scaffold about the tall steeple because of 
its great height from the ground. 

Above him, ten feet away, he could see the hole in the 
snow through which he knew he must have fallen ; and 
as he thought of the fearful shoot his body would have 
made, clearing even the great ledge of icicles, if the sur- 
face of that bank had not been rotted by some cause, his 
limbs were almost paralyzed with terror. The thought 
helped to stir the sluggish blood in his veins, and he shrank, 
rather than moved, a little from the awful brink where he 
lay. Gradually he rose to his feet and looked about him. 
The Cove post-office, showing its white roof through the 
naked trees that looked like berry-bushes in theii- tm-n, 
far, far below him, fascinated him until he felt a mad 
impulse to leap over the icicles to oblivion. Instead of 
yielding to this impulse, however, he covered his eyes 
with his hands until he found strength to turn his back 
on the tiny object that terrified him. If he cried out, his 
voice, against the rock for a sounding-board, might awaken 
the sleeping postmaster before his comrades on the pla- 
teau. Even in that case no help could reach him from 
below across the bridgeless gorge; and even if his com- 




V 



'^-Hi' 



V •^■^-'^ 



//' .^v-^: 




'PHILIP COULD SEE THE HOLE IX THE SNOW THKOrGH WHICH HE KXEW HE 
ilUST HAVE FALLEN '• 



A MISHAP IS NOT ALWAYS A MISFORTUNE 185 

rades were above Mm on the rocks, they could do nothing 
for him. 

Should he wait there to meet certain death in the ava- 
lanche to-morrow or the next day? He thought of the 
cool courage of Bromley, and wondered what he would do 
if he were there in his place. As long as there was a foot- 
hold to be gained, he knew Bromley would climb higher, 
if it were only to fall the farther, and he felt a thrill of 
pride in the dauntless nerve of his comrade. This thought 
prompted him to do something for himself, and he began 
by whipping his arms around his body, keeping his back 
resolutely on the small post-of&ce, and trying to forget 
its dizzy distance below him. As he grew warmer and 
stronger, he felt more courage. It was impossible to reach 
the hole in the snow through which he had come, for the 
broken sides separated in the wrong way from the perpen- 
dicular. He was not a fly to crawl on a ceiling. 

A few yards to his right, as he stood facing the moun- 
tain, the bank through which his body had broken its way 
made a smooth curve to the ledge where the icicles began. 
As he looked at the great polished surface of the snow, the 
thought came to him that nothing in all the world but the 
soft moonlight could cling there. Hopeless as the passage 
by the bank was, he could reach it ; and the feeling that 
it led away to the region above prompted him to pick his 
way along the narrow ledge until he could touch with his 
hand the smooth surface of the bank. He could only touch 
it with his hand, for the edge curved over his head as he 
stood alongside it. He felt that the bank was hard ; he 



186 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

was unable to break its crust with his hand ; and he knew 
that every moment it was growing harder. His strong 
knife was in his pocket. He drew out this and opened it 
with his stiff fingers. Then he began to cut his way under 
the bank. Beyond the first surface the snow yielded 
readily to his efforts ; and as it fell under his feet he made 
his way diagonally upward until at the end of half an hour, 
as it seemed to him, he broke the crust of the great bank 
and pushed his head through into the fair moonlight. He 
looked up at the glaring steep above him, and it was be- 
yond his power not to take one look back at the tiny post- 
ofSce below him. If he had not been safely wedged in the 
bank, it would have been his last look in life. As it was, 
he shrank trembling into the snow, and for a whole minute 
he never moved a muscle. 

Fortunately for his shattered nerves, it was not neces- 
sary to go out upon the surface of the bank, which was 
considerably less than perpendicular. He had only to cut 
away the crust with his knife, and so gradually work his 
way upward in a soft trench, leaving only his head and 
shoulders above the crust. 

Philip felt a strange exultation in this new power to 
advance upward, and all his sturdy strength came to his 
aid in his extremity. He felt no disposition to look back 
at the trail he knew he was leaving in the snow. He was 
certain now of gaining the top of the bank, but what lay 
beyond he knew not. HaK the distance he had fallen 
would still be above him. He was almost up now ; but at 
the very top of the bank there was another curl of the 
snow, and once more he had to burrow under Hke a mole. 



A MISHAP IS NOT ALWAYS A MISFORTUNE 187 

When Philip's head did appear again on the surface, it 
was not so light as before, and with his fii-st glance around 
he saw that the moon was already sinking below the op- 
posite ridge. He was almost within reach of another hole 
to his left ; and by its appearance, and by the distance he 
had come, he knew it was not the same which he had seen 
from below, and alongside it the last rays of the moon 
glinted on the brass bai'rel of the telescope attached to its 
broken strap. How it had come there he had no idea, any 
more than he had how he had come to be lying on the 
ledge above the icicles where he had found himself a few 
hours before. It was the old familiar telescope of the 
station, through which the three soldiers had looked at 
the prisoners and at old Shifless in the valley, and it made 
him glad as if he had met an old friend. He stretched out 
his hand to draw it to him. Instead of securing it, his 
clumsy fingers rolled it from him on the smooth snow, and 
as he looked at it the telescope turned on end and disap- 
peared through the hole in the bank. In the awful still- 
ness on the side of the mountain, he heard it strike twice 
It was nothing to Philip now whether it fell in advance or 
waited to go down with the avalanche. And just as this 
thought had passed through his mind, and as he tui*ned 
his eyes to the side of the cliff above him, the far-away 
sound of metal striking on stone broke sharply on his ear, 
and he knew that the telescope had been smashed to atoms 
on the rocks in the Cove bottom. 

From where he crouched now on the snow he could see 
the edge of the plateau above him, and as near as he could 
judge it was rather less than fifty feet away. The smooth 



188 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

rock was cased in thin ice— so thin that he believed he 
could see the black storm-stain underneath. It was gi-ow- 
ing dark now, and after all his toil and hope he had only- 
gained a little higher seat on the back of the avalanche. 
He saw with half a glance that it would be impossible to 
climb higher. He heard the wind whistle through the 
branches of the dwarfed old chestnut-trees over his head ; 
and as the cold was so stiU about him, he knew that it was 
an east wind. He could go nearer to the ledge, but he 
could gain no foothold on the rock. In the midst of his 
cruel disappointment and his awful dread of the sun which 
would come to melt the snow next day, he felt a greater 
terror than he had felt when he had first found himself 
down below. His companions might have gone mad and 
thrown him over the rock. It was aU a dark mystery to 
poor Philip. He could barely see about him now. Even 
the sun would be better than this darkness. It might be 
cold to-moiTow. At any rate, it would be afternoon be- 
fore the sun, however warm, could get in its deadly work 
on the avalanche. It never occurred to him that he was 
nearly famished, and he must have slept some where he 
sat in the snow, for he dreamed that the people were 
gathered at the post-office to see him fall, and a crash like 
the roar of battle brought him to his senses with a start. 
The next time he awoke, the bright sun was indeed shining, 
and he was stiff with the cold, as he had found himself at 
first. He was hungry, too, as he had never been hungry 
before, and the fear of starvation seemed more dreadful 
to him than the dread of the avalanche. 



A MISHAP IS NOT ALWAYS A MISFORTUNE 189 

As he lay there in his weakened state, his ears were 
alert for the faintest sound. He thought he heard a move- 
ment on the ledge above him, and then he heard voices 
clear and distinct. They were the voices of Coleman and 
Bromley. 

" Poor Philip ! " he heard them say. 

At first he was unable to speak in his excitement, and 
then he raised his voice with all the strength of his lungs, 
and cried, " Help ! Help ! " 

"Isthatyou, PhiUp?" 

" Yes, George ! Yes ! Help ! " 

By questioning him they learned what his situation was, 
and the distance he lay from the top of the ledge ; for they 
could gain no position where they could see him. They 
bade him keep up his courage until they came again. It 
was indeed a long time before he heard their voices again 
speaking to him, and then down over the icy rock came a 
knotted rope made of strips of the canvas that remained 
of the " A " tent. At the end of the life-line, as it dangled 
nearer and nearer, were two strong loops like a breeches- 
buoy. Philip felt strong again when he had the line in 
his hand, and thrusting his legs through the loops, he 
called out to hoist away. As he went up, up, he clung 
fast with his hands to the strip of canvas ; but he was too 
weak to keep himself away from the rock with his feet, so 
he bumped against it until he was drawn over the surface 
of the same stone he had slipped on the morning before. 
He saw the kind faces of his two comrades, and then he 
sank unconscious on the firm earth at their feet. 




CHAPTER XVII 

HOW THE POSTMASTER SAW A GHOST 

JN the day when Philip feU into the avalanche, 
although it was likely to break away from the 
face of the mountain at any moment and come 
thundering down on the rocks below, not a 
single person came to the office to watch with the post- 
master, who went outside from time to time and gazed 
up into the mist, and then, with a sigh of rehef, returned 
to his arm-chair before the fireplace. In better weather 
he would have had plenty of gossiping company, for ava- 
lanche day was quite the liveliest day in his calendar. 
Despite the rain which kept pattering on the low roof, he 
hoped that the snow and ice would hold fast to the rock 
until the sun came again ; but nevertheless his old ears 
were constantly on the alert for the crash which he feared. 
On many a January day, in the years that were past, 
he had occupied his favorite chair in the warm sun against 
the east wall of the office, suiTounded by his neighbors, 
watching the glittering mass, and noting the smaU frag- 
ments of ice which broke away from time to time before 

190 



HOW THE POSTMASTER SAW A GHOST 191 

the final crash. He had heard nothing yet, and as the 
gloomy afternoon wore on he began to be almost certain 
that he was not to lose his holiday, after all. 

The postmaster, though living so much alone, had a way 
of talking to himself, and on this occasion he was more 
talkative than ever, because of the uneasiness he felt. 

" Hit 's a quare thing," he said, getting up and kicking 
the logs into a blaze, and then sitting down again in his 
sheepskin-cushioned chair. " Hit 's plumb quare." 

By way of making these solitary talks more sociable, 
the old man had developed a clever habit of talking in 
dialogue, imagining himself for the time in the company 
of some congenial spirit, for whom he spoke as well as for 
himself. On this particular occasion his imaginary com- 
panion was a mountain woman for whom he had felt a 
sentimental regard years before, but to whom he had never 
told his love. 

" What 's quare, ^Manuel f Why, look here, 'Liz'beth ; 
I 've sorted the mail here more 'n thirty year, watchin' the 
avalanches fall off yonder mounting, an' in all that time 
I 've never set my foot onto the top of hit. Most of us on 
this side hain't, 'Manuel; an' since the bridge rotted away an' 
tumbled into the gorge, there ain't no way o' gittin' thar. 
'Liz'beth, I 'm nat'rally a venturesome man, though I never 
showed it to you, 'Liz'beth, when I ought to. That 's tvhat 
ye did n't. I 'm a venturesome man ; an' this here is what 
I 've made up my mind to, 'Liz'beth Hough. I 'm detar- 
mined to see the top o' that mounting afore I 'm a year 
older ; an' I 've set the time, 'Liz'beth— nothin' personal 



192 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

in that, but meanin' that when the dogwood blossoms in 
the spring I 'm goin' to find some way to git up thar. 
How 'U ye do hit, 'Manuel f Hit 's likely I 'U fall a tree 
across the gorge. DorCt do hit, ^Manuel. Why not ? " 

The postmaster looked wise, and put out his hand as if 
he were playfully touching his imaginary companion under 
the chin. *' Why not, 'Liz'beth ? Because folJcs do say that 
the old man that lived up thar was murdered, an' that his 
spirit has tooTc the form of a harnt, an' brings had luck to such 
as goes up thar to disturb him." 

The postmaster rose and kicked the fire impatiently. 
"Bah! I 'm a bold man, 'Liz'beth, past occasions not- 
withstandin'. I 'm sot an' detarmined to do hit when the 
dogwood-trees blossom out, an' I 'm 'lowin' you '11 come 
an' tend the ofl&ce, 'Liz'beth, while I 'm gone." 

The postmaster stood with his back to the fire, looking 
down over his left shoulder to where the imaginary form 
of Elizabeth sat. 

"You '11 come an' speU me, wiU ye, 'Liz'beth? You 
alius was a 'commodatin' woman. No, there ain't nothin' 
for ye to-day— not so much as a paper. Don't be in a 
hurry. This here idee of explorin' that mounting has took 
a powerful hold on me, sure. Nothin' that you can say 
will prevent me from so doin'. Well, if you must go, 
'Liz'beth, I s'pose hit 's high time I was gittin' my supper. 
After I wash the dishes, I 'low to walk across to the big 
road an' see if there 's any tracks. Grood-by, 'Liz'beth. 
Good-by, 'Manuel." 

The postmaster was sUent while he raked out a bed of 



HOW THE POSTMASTER SAW A GHOST 193 

coals and set the three-legged iron skillet over the very- 
hottest place. Then he mixed some Indian meal with milk 
and a pinch of salt, and having patted it down in the 
skillet, he put on the cover, and filled the rim with more 
coals and some burning embers. After he had buried a 
potato in the ashes, and set the coffee down to warm over, 
he broke out again : 

"I could n't 'a' been mistaken about there bein' no thin' 
for 'Liz'beth. I sort o' spoke at random, knowin' that the 
last letter she got was in '68, month o' May." Then he 
stepped back so as to look through the letter-boxes, which 
were before the south window. '^ There 's nothin' in H 
except a linch-pin, an' I 'low that oughter be in L— no, 
that 's for Riley Hooper, Hello ! hit 's clearin'. There '11 
be a moon to-night, an' nothin' 's goin' to drap afore to- 
morrow." 

After he had eaten, and put away the supper-things, the 
postmaster took down his rifle from the rack over the door, 
and stepped out into the clearing. 

The sky was not yet free from rolling clouds, which 
were drifting into the east across the face of the great full 
moon that hung directly over the mountain. Stretching 
away to the seamed rock where the avalanche hung was 
a wide old field, broken by rocks and bristling with girdled 
trees, whose dead limbs wi'iggled upward and outward like 
the hundred hands of Briareus. The postmaster kept to 
the foot-worn trail, shuffling over the wet leaves, and 
glancing up now and then at the granite front of old 
Whiteside with great satisfaction, not only because the 
11 



194 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

avalanche was safe for the night, but because he loved to 
tliink that whatever secrets the mountain held would be 
his when the dogwood-blossoms came in the spring. 

He went as far as the big road, and finding plenty of 
fresh tracks, he kept on in the direction of Cashiers until 
he came to a cabin where the bright warm light glowed 
through the chinks between the logs and through the 
cracks about the chimney as if the place were on fire. By 
the merry laughter he heard and the scraping of a viohn 
he knew that a frolic was going on, and he chuckled to 
think that he had in his pocket a certain letter which 
would be a convenient excuse for dropping in on the 
revelers. 

The postmaster must have been welcome in his own 
social person over and above the favor of the letter he 
brought, for it was hard upon twelve o'clock when he came 
out and took his way homeward, feeling jollier than he 
had felt for many a day, and carrying a cake in a paper 
parcel under his arm for the coming festivities at the 
office. 

" Who 'd 'a' thought," he said, turning to look back at 
the lighted cabin, where the revelry was at its height, 
"that I 'd 'a' been dancin' a figger this night on the 
puncheons with 'Liz'beth Hough ? Hit sort o' took all the 
boldness out o' me when she come over an' asted me. I 
don't low any other human could 'a' cowed me that-a-way. 
I 'm a bold man under ordinary conditions prevailin' an' 
takin' place. I ain't easy to skeer," he continued as he 
resumed his walk, '' leastways where men is concarned." 



HOW THE POSTMASTER SAW A GHOST 195 

It was cold now, and still, and the wrinkled mud on the 
road was curdled with frost. The moon was well over to 
the west range. The last cloud had disappeared, and the 
stars were like jewels in the sky through the bare limbs 
of the trees. He was in such a rare state of exhilaration 
that he was more talkative than ever, and kept up a run- 
ning conversation with first one neighbor and then another, 
until his cheerful dialogue, which had brought him to 
the border of his own field and in sight of the office, was 
rudely interrupted by the " too-hoot " of an owl somewhere 
among the girdled trees. 

'' Shet up," said the postmaster, carefully laying the cake 
down on the leaves, and cocking his rifle. " Good night, 
Riley. Linch-pin 's come ; twelve cents postage stamped 
on the tag. Good nighf, 'Manuel. I must tend to this 
sassy critter, interruptin' of his betters. Where be ye, 
anyway? Know enough to hold yer tongue, don't ye? 
I '11 let ye know I 'm a bold man, leastways—" and with 
that he fired his gun at random. In the windless night 
the sharp report seemed to strike against the granite 
mountain and be thrown back like a ball of sound, to go 
bounding across the Cove, rolling into the distance. 

The postmaster reloaded his gun and eased the lock 
down upon a fresh cap before he took up the cake, mut- 
tering at the owl, and then chuckling to think that he had 
silenced his rival. 

He turned out of the trail to a little knoll which com- 
manded a clear view of the granite mountain, streaked 
down with black storm-stains that looked like huge ban- 



196 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

ners fluttering out from the shining mass of snow and ice 
clinging to the crest. 

The postmaster gazed upward for some minutes, and 
then moved on in silence toward the office, under the 
girdled trees. The avalanche was uppermost in his mind, 
however, and before he had gone far he stopped on an- 
other place of vantage to take a last fond look. 

" Freezin' tighter an' tighter every blessed minute," he 
began. " When the dogwood-trees blossom in the spring- 
time, old rock, I 'II let ye know I 'm a bold—" 

He never finished the sentence. 

The cake and the rifle fell to the ground, and the post- 
master's jaw dropped on its hinges. Cold chills ran up 
his back and blew like a wind through his haii-, while the 
blood seemed to throb in his ears. He was powerless to 
speak. He could only gaze with his bulging eyes at the 
small figure which rose slowly from the roots of the great 
icicles and then stood motionless and black against the 
snow. It looked to be a figure, so small and far away in 
the uncertain moonlight, and yet it stood where no living 
man could possibly be. His first conviction was that he 
saw the spirit of the old man of the mountain, who, for 
one reason or another, was believed to rest uneasily in his 
grave ; and when the small object began to thresh the air 
with its arms like the wings of a windmill, he had no 
further doubt that it was the dreadful "harnt" of whom 
'Liz'beth had warned him. With a howl he tui*ned and 
fled over the field in the direction of the office, and as he 
ran the owl resumed its dismal note—" Too-hoo, too-hoot." 
As many times as he fell down he clambered upon his feet 



HOW THE POSTMASTER SAW A GHOST 197 

again, and ran on, never daring to look back at the 
" harnt " waving its ghostly arms above the roots of the 
great icicles. He thought his time had come, for he had 
heard that men never lived who had once seen the dead ; 
and all the time, as he ran, the mocking cry of the owl 
resounded through the woods. 

The postmaster was staggering and breathless when he 
reached his door, and once inside, he shoved the wooden 
bolt, and leaned against the table in the center of the room. 
Only a few glimmering coals lighted the ashes between 
the iron fire-dogs. Just enough moonlight struggled 
through the grimy south window to show the glazed boxes, 
holding a paper here and an uncalled-for letter there, 
while the unused places were stuffed with bunches of 
twine, and heaps of nails, and strings of onions, and quite 
the dustiest litter of odds and ends filled the compartments 
X, Y, and Z. As the old man raised his eyes and glared 
around the shadowy walls, there was something which 
caught a fleck of moonlight high up on the chimney, but 
that was only the perforated cross of the churn-dasher 
thrust between the logs. In the north window, over op- 
posite to the letter-boxes, his eyes fell on a wide-mouthed 
bottle, from whose top two dead stalks of geraniums 
drooped over to the shoulders of the bottle, and then 
spread out to right and left against the glass. With a 
shiver of fear, he supported himself over to his arm-chair, 
and sank down with his back to the object, which re- 
minded him of the "harnt" flinging its arms against the 
snow on the mountain. 

The postmaster had not yet found his voice. Perhaps 



198 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

he feared to break the death-like stillness of the room, 
heavy with the sooty odor of the fii-eplaee. For some 
moments he heard nothing but his own heavy breathing, 
and then a dull clatter, like some hard object striking on 
wood, came from behind the house. Instead of being 
startled at hearing this noise, the postmaster got upon his 
feet, and shufiied across the floor and out through a 
creaking door into a lean-to, where the moonlight poured 
through the loose log wall and lay in spots and stripes on 
the old brindle plow-steer, which was still grinding his 
crumpled horns against the wooden rack above his 
manger. 

''I Ve seen hit. Buck! I 've seen hit. The harnt! — 
the harnt ! " 

The postmaster's voice had come at last, and as he spoke 
he leaned on the shoulders of the ox, whose cold wet nose 
sought his groping hand. 

" I hain't got long to stay. I 've seen what 't ain't good 
to see, an' live. I hope ye '11 git a good master when I 'm 
gone. Buck. Tell 'Liz'beth that I died a-blessin' of her 
name, with all the boldness took clean out of me. Cut 
off in my sins," he moaned, throwing his arms about the 
neck of the ox, '' for seein' a harnt unbeknownst, an' hit 
strikin' out desperit at Jo-siah, or whoever did the murder, 
an' not keerin' for the avalanche no more 'n you keer for 
a hickory gad. Whoa, Buck, whoa," and as he spoke he 
patted the animal on the neck. " I 'm a-goin' to stay 'long 
o' you. Buck, this whole endurin' night. I 'm afeard to 
go back into the ofi&ce." 



HOW THE POSTMASTER SAW A GHOST 199 

The postmaster trembled where he stood, and a ray 
of moonlight, coming through a knot-hole in the slab 
roof, fell full on his ashen face and glaring eyes. He 
spoke no more for a time, except an occasional caress- 
ing word to soothe the uneasy ox, which sidled about and 
grated his horns against the wooden stanchions. Then, 
when he grew weary in that position, he climbed over 
into the long manger and crouched down on the corn- 
shucks, where he could see the mild eyes of the ox, and the 
spots and stripes of moonlight on his tough hide. Grad- 
ually he grew calmer, and tried to put the gruesome sight 
he had seen out of his mind. 

"I never knowed before ye was sech good company, 
Buck. You 've got eyes like a woman, an' a heap more 
patience. I '11 never strike ye another blow, an' if I live 
to see to-morrow I '11 write ye a letter, an' put hit in B box, 
expressin' my brother^ feehn's in language more fitter 
than I 'm able to do now." 

The postmaster continued to mutter caressingly to his 
dumb companion, until the bars and spots of moonlight 
began to fade, leaving the ox in obscurity, which was the 
time when PhUip reached the upper bank and sank down 
on the snow, after hearing the telescope strike on the rocks 
in the Cove; and both men must have fallen asleep at 
about the same time. 

It was mid-forenoon when the postmaster awoke, and a 
man was standing over him, shaking his shoulder. The 
man was coming home from the frolic at the cabin, and 
finding the front door bolted, had come around to the 



200 THE LAST THREE SOLDffiRS 

shed. He had the cake and the gnn, which he had found 
in the field. 

" What in the name o' sense are ye doin' here at this 
time o' day, 'Manuel 1 Come outen that manger." 

The postmaster obeyed in a dazed sort of way, and when 
he was on his feet he shook the straws and bits of corn- 
husks from his clothing, the old brindle ox looking at the 
two men with his mild eyes from his place in the corner. 

"What made ye drap these things out in the field, 
'Manuel ? " said the man. 

"Come into the office, Jonas," said the postmaster, 
leading the way ; and then he told the other of the fear- 
ful sight he had seen. 

The sun was warm after the rain, and soon others began 
to come, — men and women, — and he told his story again 
and again, to the awe and amazement of his simple lis- 
teners. 

" I seen a quare streak down the long bank, as I came 
through the woods," said one man; "I did sure." And 
then they all went out into the field where the gun and the 
cake had been found. Sure enough, there was a dull line 
plainly to be seen on the smooth crust of the snow. They 
all agreed that this was the track of the "harnt," who had 
amused himself in the night-time by climbing up and 
sliding down on the face of the avalanche. 

The story spread through the settlements, and no man 
was bold enough thereafter to think of bridging the gorge 
to get upon the haunted mountain. 




CHAPTER XVm 

KNOWLEDGE PROM ABOVE 

■HEN Philip awoke, after having swooned at the 
feet of his comrades when his rescue was ac- 
complished, he lay in the delicious warmth of 
his bunk. The late afternoon sun streamed in 
at the window over his head, and Coleman sat watching 
at his side. Bromley was stirring the fire, which was burn- 
ing briskly on the hearth, and the smell of gruel was in 
the room. The station flags and the crossed sabers bright- 
ened the space above the chimneypiece. The map hung 
on the opposite wall, and over it the old flag with thirty- 
five stars seemed to have been draped just where it woidd 
first catch his waking eye. 

Strangely enough, the immediate cause that awoke Philip 
was a dull boom which made the faces of his comrades 
turn pale, and which was no less than the fall of the ava- 
lanche on which he had passed the night and the best part 
of the day before. 

Philip, if he heard the sound at all, was not sufficiently 
awake at the time to understand its awful meaning ; and 

201 



202 THE LAST THEEE SOLDIERS 

without noticing the pallor of his comrades, he weakly put 
out his hand, which Coleman took in his own with a warm 
pressure, and Bromley came over to the side of the bunk 
and looked doubtingly into his face. Neither of his com- 
rades uttered a word. 

" Give me the gruel," said Philip ; " I was never so hun- 
gry before. And don't look at me so, George ; I 'm not 
mad." 

After he had eaten, he talked so rationally that Coleman 
and Bromley shook each other's hands and laughed im- 
moderately at every slightest excuse for merriment, but 
said not a word of the delusion which had so lately dark- 
ened Philip's mind. They were so very jolly that Philip 
laughed weakly himself by infection, and then he asked 
them to teU him how he had fallen over the mountain 
without knowing it. 

In reply to this question, Coleman told him that he had 
been sick, and that he must have walked off the great rock 
in the thick fog. 

Philip was silent for a space, as if trying to digest this 
strange information, and then with some animation he 
said: 

''Look here, Fred! The funniest part of this whole 
dark business was when I had climbed up to the top of the 
great bank. There, alongside a hole in the snow, lay our 
telescope. When I put out my hand to take it, it rolled 
away through the opening in the snow ; and the Lord for- 
give me, fellows, I heard it ring on the rocks at the bottom 
of the Cove." 



KNOWLEDGE FEOM ABOVE 203 

With this long speech, and without waiting for a reply, 
Philip fell off into a gentle doze. 

Coleman and Bromley, having no doubt now that 
Philip's mind was restored, because he seemed to have no 
recollection of the princess or of his strange behavior on 
the mountain for the year that was past, were very happy 
at this change in his condition. As to the telescope, they 
regarded its fall as a very dangerous matter, and a catas- 
trophe which might bring them some unwelcome visitors. 
But, then, it was possible that it had fallen among inac- 
cessible rocks, and would never be found at all. If any 
one should come to disturb them, they might hear of some 
unpleasant facts of which they would rather remain in igno- 
rance. Now that nearly five years had passed since the 
great war, they thought that whoever came would not 
exult over them in an unbearable way, or rub insults into 
their wounds. They knew that some of the mountaineers 
had been Union men ; and although they would never seek 
communication with them, a connection formed against 
their will might result to their advantage. They had a 
good supply of the double eagles left. Somebody held 
title to the mountain, they knew ; and if the telescope did 
bring them visitors, they could buy the plateau from the 
deep gorge up, and pay in gold for it handsomely, too. 
Then they could send down their measures to a tailor and 
have new uniforms made to the buttons they had saved— 
that is, if the tailor was not a secessionist too hot-headed 
to soil his hands with the uniform of the old, mutilated, 
and disgraced Union. Then, too, they could buy seeds 



204 THE LAST THEEE SOLDIEES 

and books and a great many comforts to make their lives 
more enjoyable on the mountain. 

And so it came about that, when month after month 
passed and nobody came, the three soldiers were rather 
disappointed. They resolved to save what remained of 
their minted and milled coins against any unforeseen 
chance they might have to put them in circulation ; and 
now that they thought of it, it would have been much 
wiser to have melted the coins of the United States and 
saved the English guineas. If, however, the world had 
not changed greatly since they left it, they believed the 
natives in the valley below would accept good red gold if 
the face of the old boy himself was stamped on the coin. 

When Philip was quite himself again, by reason of his 
knowledge of milling he took entire control of the golden 
mill. In the cold weather his old overcoat was dusty with 
meal, as a miller's should be; and in the summer days 
plenty of the yellow dust clung to the hairs on his arms 
and in his thin red beard. 

It is a Sunday morning in September again, and, to be 
exact with the date,— for it was a very important one in 
their history,— it is the fifth day of the month in the year 
70. The three soldiers are standing together by the door 
of the mill, dressed very much as we last saw them there, 
and engaged in an animated conversation. 

"An egg," said Lieutenant Coleman, facing his two 
comrades, and crossing his hands unconsciously over the 
great *'A" on the back of his canvas trousers, ''as an 
article of food may be considered as the connecting-link 



KNOWLEDGE FROM ABOVE 205 

between the animal and the vegetable. If we had to kill 
the hen to get the egg, I should consider it a sin to eat it. 
What we have to do, and that right briskly, is to eat the 
eggs to prevent the hens from increasing until they are 
numerous enough to devour every green thing on the 
mountain." 

" I am not so sure of that," said PhOip, toying with his 
one dusty suspender ; " we could feed the eggs to the bear." 

" We could, but we won't," said Bromley, shaking some 
crumbs from the front of his gown. ''When nature 
prompts a hen to cackle, do you think we are expected to 
look the other way ? Why, Philip, you will be going back 
on honey next because bees make it. We are vegetarians 
because we no longer think it right to destroy animal life. 
We not only think it wrong to destroy, but we believe 
it to be our duty to preserve it wherever we find it. Don't 
we spread corn on the snow in the winter for the coons 
and squirrels? Come, now! We are not vegetarians 
at all. We are simply unwilling to take life, which leaves 
us to choose between vegetable diet and starvation. Now, 
then," said Bromley, spreading out his bare arms and 
shrugging his shoulders, " of the two, I choose a vegetable 
diet ; but if I could eat half a broiled chicken without in- 
jury to the bird, I 'd do it. That 's the sort of vegetarian 
I am." 

" Nonsense ! " said Philip. '' You 're a dabster at split- 
ting hairs, you are. It was uphill work making a vegeta- 
rian of you, George ; but we have got you there at last, 
and you can't squirm out of it." 



206 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

" Give it to him, Phil ! " cried Coleman. *' Hit him on 
the salt ! " 

" Exactly ! " continued Philip, taking a swallow of water 
from a golden cup, and addressing himself to Bromley. 
'^ When the salt was gone you thought you 'd never enjoy 
another meal, did n't you ?— and how is it now ? You are 
honest enough to admit that you never knew what a keen 
razor-edge taste was before. I '11 bet you a quart of 
double eagles, George, that you get more flavor out of a 
dish of common—" 

At that moment a bag of sand came through the 
branches of the tree which shaded the three soldiers as 
they talked. There was a dark shadow moving over the 
sunlit ground, and a rushing sound in the air above. 
Their own conversation, and the noise of the water pour- 
ing from the trough over the idle wheel and splashing on 
the stones, must have prevented their hearing human 
voices close at hand. Rushing out from under the trees, 
they saw a huge balloon sweeping over their heads. The 
enormous bag of silk, swaying and pulsating in the meshes 
of the netting, was a hundred feet above the plateau ; but 
the willow basket, in which two men and one woman were 
seated, was not more than half that distance from the 
ground. The surprise, the whistling of the monster 
through the air, the snapping and rending of the drag- 
rope with its iron hook, which was tearing up the turf, 
and which in an instant more scattered the shingles on 
the roof of their house like chaff, and carried off some of 
their bedding which was airing there— all these things 




'KUSHISG OCT FROM UNDER THE TREES, THEY SAW A HUGE BALLOON 
SWEEPING OVER THEIR HEADS." 



KNOWLEDGE FROM ABOVE 209 

were so startling, and came upon them so suddenly, that 
they had but short opportunity to observe the human 
beings who came so near them. 

Brief as the time was, the faces of the three strangers 
were indelibly impressed upon their memory, and no por- 
tion of their dress seen above the rim of the basket escaped 
their observation. The woman, who appeared to be per- 
fectly calm and self-possessed, kissed her hand with a 
smile so enchanting, lighting a face which seemed to the 
soldiers to be a face of such angehc beauty, that they half 
doubted if she could really belong to the race of earthly 
women they had once known so intimately. The men 
were not in like manner attractive to their eyes, but 
seemed to be of that oily-haired, waxy-mustached, be- 
ringed, and professorish variety which suggested to them 
chiropodists or small theatrical managers. 

Notwithstanding the rushing and creaking of the cor- 
dage, the voices of the men in the balloon had that peculiar 
quality of distinctness that sound has on a lowery morn- 
ing before a storm. Indeed, each voice above them had a 
vibration of its own which enabled the soldiers to hear all 
commingled and yet to hear each separately and distinctly. 
The hurried orders for the management of the balloon 
were given in subdued tones, and uttered with less excite- 
ment than might have been expected in the circumstances, 
yet the words came to the earth with startling distinctness. 

When they saw the soldiers, the taller of the men, who 
wore the larger diamond in his shirt-front, put his hand to 
his mouth and cried in deafening tones : 



210 THE LAST THEEE SOLDIERS 

" ' Skylark/ from Charleston, 3 : 30 yesterday." 

At the same time the beautiful lady, laying her hand on 
her breast as if to indicate hei*self , uttered the words : 

' ' New York ! New York ! " 

Even while they spoke, their voices grew softer as the 
balloon sped on, the great gas-bag inchned forward by the 
action of the drag-rope, and its shadow flying beneath it 
over the surface of the plateau. As soon as the two pro- 
fessors saw the danger which threatened the log house, 
they began to throw out sand-bags from the car, and the 
lady clung with both hands to the guy-ropes. It was too 
late, however, to prevent the contact, and the lurch given 
to the basket by the momentary hold which the grappling- 
hook took in the roof of the house threw several objects 
to the ground, and on its release the balloon rose higher 
in the air, having a *' U. S." blanket streaming back from 
the end of the drag-rope. The property they were bearing 
away was seen by the men in the car, and the rope was 
taken in with aU speed ; but a fresh breeze having set in 
from the east, the baUoon was swept rapidly along, so that 
it was weU beyond the plateau when the blanket fluttered 
loose from the hook. 

The soldiers ran after it with outstretched arms until 
they came to the edge of the great boulder, where they 
saw their good woolen blanket again, still drifting down- 
ward with funny antics through the air, until it fell noise- 
lessly at the very door of the Cove postmaster. 

The balloon itself was by this time soaring above the 
mountains beyond the Cove, and they kept their eyes on 



KNOWLEDGE FROM ABOVE 211 

the receding ball until it was only a speck among the 
clouds and then vanished altogether into the pale blue of 
the horizon. 

The soldiers had not seen the objects tumble out of the 
car when the drag-rope caught in the shingles of their 
house, and the thoughts of their wrecked roof and lost 
blanket had the power for the moment to displace even the 
image of the beautiful lady, whom they could never, never 
forget. The passage of the balloon had at first dazed and 
awed, and then charmed and bewildered them, leaving 
them in a state of trembling excitement impossible for the 
reader to conceive of. 

They no longer had the telescope with which to observe 
the surprise of the Cove postmaster when he found the 
gray blanket with " U. S." in the center ; but they had 
the presence of mind to get behind trees, where they 
waited until he came out. He looked very small in the 
distance when he came at last, but they could see that the 
object was a man. It was evident, from his not having 
been out before, that he had not seen the balloon pass 
over. He seemed to stoop down and raise the blanket, and 
then to drop it and stand erect, and by a tiny flash of light 
which each of the soldiers saw and knew must be the re- 
flection of the sun on his spectacles, they were sure he was 
looking at the top of the mountain and thinking of the 
east wind. There was no help for it ; and when he disap- 
peared into the office with their blanket, they chinked the 
gold in their pockets ; for they carried coin with them now, 
and thought that an opportunity might soon come for 



212 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

them to spend it. As they moved away in the direction 
of the house, they were sorry that the drag-rope of the 
balloon had not fastened its hook in the plateau ; for they 
believed they were rich enough to buy the coats off the 
backs of the two men, and the diamonds in their shirt- 
fronts if they had cared for them. 

As the three soldiers neared the house, they began pick- 
ing up the sand-bags, stenciled " Skylark, 1870." Philip, 
who was in the advance, had secured three, wliich he sud- 
denly threw down into the grass with a cry of joy ; for at 
their feet lay a book with an embellished green cover. 
The three were almost as much excited as they had 
been when they discovered the contents of the keg which 
they had dug out of the grave of the old man of the 
mountain, and instantly had their heads together, believ- 
ing that the}'^ were about to learn something of the condi- 
tion of the old United States, and even fearing they might 
read that they no longer existed at all. They were so 
nervous that they fumbled at the covers and hindered one 
another ; and between them, in their haste, they dropped it 
on the ground. When they had secured it again and got 
their six eyes on the title-page, imagine their surprise and 
disgust when they read, "A Treatise on Deep-Sea Fishing " ! 

" Bother deep-sea fishing ! " exclaimed Philip. 

" Hum ! " said Coleman, '' it will work up into paper for 
the diary." 

Bromley said nothing, but looked more disgusted than 
either of his comrades, and gave the book, which they had 
dropped again, a kick with his foot. 



KNOWLEDGE FROM ABOVE 213 

Their disappointment was somewhat relieved presently, 
for in the chips by the door of the house they found a 
small hand-bag of alligator leather marked with three sil- 
ver letters, '' E. Q. R." The key Avas attached to the lock 
by a ribbon; and as soon as the bag could be opened, 
Coleman seized upon another small book which was called 
"The Luck of Roaring Camp." The author was one 
Francis Bret Harte, of whom they had never heard be- 
fore. The book was a new one, for it bore " 1870 " on the 
title-page, and the leaves were uncut except at a particu- 
lar story entitled " Higgles." 

Besides this book the bag contained numerous little 
trinkets, among which the most useful article was a pair 
of scissors. They found three dainty linen handkerchiefs 
with monograms, a cut-glass vinaigrette containing salts 
of ammonia, a rag of chamois-skin dusty with a white 
powder, a tooth-brush, and a box of the tooth-powder 
aforesaid, a brush and comb, a box of bonbons, a pair of 
tan-colored gloves, a button-hook, and an opened letter ad- 
dressed to Elizabeth Q. Rose, No. 165 West 130th street, 
New York city. 

The letter bore the postmark, '' Liverpool, August 12," 
and was stamped at the New York office, "August 20, 8 p. m." 
Here was evidence of progress. Mght days from Liverpool 
to New Yorlc! 

The envelop had been torn off at the lower right-hand 
corner in opening, so that it was impossible to tell whether 
the letters " U. S." or " C. S." had been written below " New 
York." The soldiers cut the leaves of the book, and 



214 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

glanced Imrriedly over the pages without finding anything 
to clear up the mystery which interested them most. They 
sat down on the woodpile, sorely disappointed, to talk 
over the events of the morning ; and presently they began 
clipping off their long beards with the scissors, and using 
the brush and comb, to which their heads had so long been 
strangers. The experience was all so strange that but for 
the treasures left behind, not counting the '^ Treatise on 
Deep-Sea Fishing,'^ they might have doubted the reality 
of the passage of their aerial visitor. 

When it came to a division of the trifles of a lady's 
toilet, the well-known prejudice of the world below con- 
cerning a second-hand tooth-brush was cast to the winds 
by Bromley, while Lieutenant Coleman, who had some 
qualms of conscience, was better satisfied with the rag of 
chamois-skin for the same purpose. The vinaigrette and 
the gloves fell to Philip. They had just a handkerchief 
apiece, and nobody cared for the button-hook. 

The letter found in the bag was a subject of heated dis- 
cussion, and from motives of chivalrous delicacy remained 
for a long time unread. George Bromley contended 
that its contents might throw some hght on the subject 
which the books had left in obscurity, while Lieutenant 
Coleman shrank from offering such an indignity to the 
memory of the angelic lady of the air. It was finally 
agreed that Bromley might examine and then destroy it. 
Lieutenant Coleman dechning to be made acquainted with 
its contents. 

They never quite understood the association of the 



KNOWLEDGE FROM ABOVE 215 

beautiful lady with the two men, of whom they had but 
a poor opinion. When Bromley suggested that to their 
starved eyes a cook might seem a princess, his comrades 
were sufficiently indignant, and reminded him of her lit- 
erary taste, as shown by the quality of the new book found 
in the bag. 

After all, they had learned nothing of the great secret 
that vexed their lives. Was there still in existence a starry 
flag bearing any semblance to this one which was now 
floating over the mountain ? Was it stiU loved in the land 
and respected on the sea ? 

To men who had seen it bent forward under the eagles 
of the old republic, gray in the stifling powder-clouds, fall- 
ing and rising in the storm of battle, a pale ghost of a flag, 
fluttering colorless on the plain or climbing the stubborn 
mountain, human lives falling like leaves for its uphold- 
ing—this was the burning question. 




CHAPTER XIX 

THE CAVE OF THE BATS 

■HEN the nine small gunny-sacks stenciled " Sky- 
lark, 1870," were emptied on the floor of the 
house, the Crustacea of the Atlantic's sands had 
found a resting-place on the summit of White- 
side Mountain, and might yet furnish evidence to some 
grave scientist of the future to prove beyond a doubt that 
the sea at no very remote period had surged above the 
peaks of the Blue Ridge. Starfish, shells, and bones, and 
fragments of the legs of spider-crabs, horseshoe-crabs, and 
crayfish, and some very active sand-fleas afforded much 
scientific amusement to our exiles, and brought vividly to 
mind the boom of the sea and the whitebait and whales 
that wiggle-waggle in its depth. 

Neither the telescope nor the army blanket with " U. S." 
in the center, nor the two combined, had brought any 
visitors to the three soldiers, nor any information of the 
real state of affairs in the United States, which would 
quickly have terminated their exile. 

The very pathetic and amusing volume of stories found 

216 



THE CAVE OF THE BATS 217 

in the alligator-skin bag caused more tears and healthy- 
laughter than the soldiers had given way to since their 
great disappointment, and actually brought about such 
neglect of the October work on the plantation that more 
than half the potato crop rotted in the ground. 

On the 21st of that month in this very balloon year, the 
area of Sherman Territory was extended by the addition 
of half an acre of rocks and brambles on the boulder side 
of the mountain, and afterward of much more, as will be 
shown in due time. 

The twenty-first day of October in the year '70, then, 
was a lowery day. A strong, humid wind was blowing 
steadily across the mountain and soughing in the boughs 
of the pines, while the low clouds, westward bound, flew 
in ragged rifts overhead. It was a pleasant wind to feel, 
and the rising and falling cadence of its song reminded 
the soldiers of a wind from the sea. In the successive 
seasons they had gleaned the grove so thoroughly, even 
cutting the dry Umbs from the trees, that they were now 
obliged to search under the carpet of needles for the fat 
pine-knots which formerly lay in abundance on the sur- 
face. 

At the extreme southern end of the tongue of land on 
which the pines grew, a soHtary stump clung in the base 
of the cliff. The outer fiber of the wood had crumbled 
away, leaving the resinous heart and the tough roots firmly 
bedded in the soil. They had been chopping and digging 
for an hour before they loosened and removed the cen- 
tral mass. Continuing their quest for one of the great 



218 THE LAST THREE SOLDIEES 

roots which ran into the earth under the chff, George 
dealt a vigorous stroke on the rotten stone and earth be- 
hind, which yielded so unexpectedly that he lost his foot- 
ing, and at the same time his hold on the ax, which 
promptly disappeared into the bowels of the earth. They 
heard it ring upon the rocks below with strange echoes, 
as if it had fallen into a subterraneous cavern. At the 
same time the wind rushed through the opening in a 
current warmer than the surrounding atmosphere, and 
brought with it a strong, offensive smell, as if they had 
entered a menagerie in August. As soon as the soldiers 
recovered from their surprise they set vigorously to work 
for the recovery of the ax, attacking the loose earth with 
their gold-tipped shovel and with the tough oaken hand- 
spike with which they had been prying at the stump. 
Their efforts rapidly enlarged the opening, and presently 
the great root itself tumbled in after the ax. Pliilip ran 
to the house for a light, and by the time he returned with 
a blazing torch, Coleman and Bromley had enlarged the 
opening under the cliff until it was wide enough to admit 
their bodies easily. All was darkness, even blackness, 
within, and the rank animal smeU was as offensive as ever, 
so that Philip held his nose in disgust. 

By passing the torch into the opening of the cavern 
they could see the ax lying on the earthen floor ten feet 
below, and to the right the overlapping strata of gi-anite 
seemed to offer a rude stairway for their descent. George 
entered at once, with the torch in one hand, and in the 
other the handspike with which to test his footing in ad- 



THE CAVE OF THE BATS 219 

vance. In another moment he stood on the hard floor 
by the ax. and the light of his torch revealed the rocky 
sides of the cavern stretching away to the south along the 
side of the mountain. Coleman provided himself with one of 
the fattest of the pine-knots, and descended into the cavern 
after Bromley. With some hesitation Philip followed. 

The resinous smoke of the torches relieved the subter- 
raneous atmosphere somewhat of its offensive animal odor, 
and the flames flooded the walls and ceiling with light. 
Their voices, calling to each other as they advanced, 
sounded abnormally loud, and seemed to fill the space 
about them with a cavernous ring in which they detected 
no side echoes which would indicate lateral chambers 
branching off from the main passage. By the current of 
air flaring the torches back toward the opening they had 
made, they knew that the passage itself must be open to 
the day at its other end. The roof seemed to be about 
eight feet above their heads, although at times it drew 
nearer, and occasionally it retired to a greater altitude, 
but never beyond the searching illumination of their 
torches. 

Presently, as they advanced, their attention was drawn 
to brown masses of something like fungi clinging to the 
rock overhead, but partaking so closely of the color and 
texture of the stone that they seemed, after all, to be but 
flinty lumps on the roof. As Bromley, who was in front, 
came to a point where the ceihng hung so low as to be 
within reach, he swept the flame of his torch across one 
of these brown patches, and straightway the stifling air 



220 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

was filled with a squeaking, unearthly chorus, and with 
the beating of innumerable wings. Scorched by the flame 
and blinded by the Hght, many of these disabled creatm-es, 
which proved to be a colony of bats, fluttered to the floor, 
and dashed against the bare feet of the soldiers with a 
clammy touch that made the cold chills rise in their hair. 

This was too much for Philip, who turned back to join 
Tumbler in the open air at the mouth of the cavern. At 
the same time, however, the offensive odor was accounted 
for, and Bromley and Coleman had no further fear of meet- 
ing larger animals as they advanced. As a lover of ani- 
mals, George was shocked at the cruel consequences of his 
rash action; as a bold explorer, however, he pushed on 
into the gruesome darkness at a pace that soon left Cole- 
man's prudent feet far behind. The latter had a wholesome 
fear of treading on some yielding crust which might pre- 
cipitate him to other and more terrible depths. 

The way seemed to turn spmewhat as they advanced ; 
for at times the light of George's torch vanished behind, 
the projection of one or the other wall, and at such times 
Coleman called eagerly to him to wait. Bromley's cheery 
voice, evidently advancing, came ringing back so distinct^ 
that his companion was reassured by his seeming near- 
ness. Once, when the darkness had continued for a long 
time in front, Coleman began to be alarmed at the thought 
that Bromley's torch must have gone out, and then the 
fear that he might have fallen into some fissui'e in the 
rocks made him cold about the heart. 

Lieutenant Coleman was now picking his way more 




'BErOXD THE ILLUMINATION OF HIS TOKCH HE SAW 
TWO GLEAMING EYES." 



THE CAVE OF THE BATS 223 

gingerly than ever, and holding his Kght high above his 
head, when, to add to his terror, he thought he heard some- 
thing approaching behind him. Sure enough, when he 
turned about, in the darkness of the cavern just beyond 
the illumination of his torch he saw two gleaming eyes. 
The eyes were fixed upon him, and the head of the animal 
moved from side to side, but came no nearer. He would 
have given worlds for the carbine. His blood ran cold in 
his veins at the thought of his terrible situation. He was 
utterly helpless, hemmed in by the rocks. It was impos- 
sible to go back. He could only go forward. He remem- 
bered then that the fiercest of wild animals, even lions 
and tigers, kept back in the darkness and glared all night 
with their hungry eyes at the fires of hunters. He was 
safe, then, to go on, but a dreadful conflict was in store 
for the two men if the animal should follow them out of 
the cavern. 

Bromley's torch now reappeared in the distance. Cole- 
man was too terrified to call, but instead moved on in 
silence, occasionally flaring his torch behind liim, and al- 
ways seeing the gleaming eyes when he looked back. Try 
as he would, he could get no farther from them. There 
were occasional stumbling-blocks in the way, and once or 
twice he encountered rocks which he was obliged to pass 
around. Whenever Coleman turned and waved the torch, 
the animal whined as if he too were in fear. 

Terrified as Lieutenant Coleman was, he could not help 
noticing that the brown colonies of bats now appeared 
more frequently on the stone ceiling, and presently the 



224 THE LAST THEEE SOLDIERS 

air grew perceptibly fresher as he advanced. He began 
to realize the presence of a gray light apart from that of 
his torch ; and finally coming sharply around a projecting 
rock, he saw the welcome light of day streaming in through 
a wide opening in the rocks, and at one side, thrust into a 
crevice,George's torch was flaring and smoking in the wind. 
Coleman placed his torch with the other, hoping that the 
lights would continue to protect them from the animal, 
and then he sprang out of the cavern into the sweet open 
air, with that joyous feeling of relief which can be under- 
stood only by one who has passed through a similar 
experience. 

George was standing in the dry grass, with a great stone 
in each hand, as if he already knew their danger and was 
prepared ; but when Coleman told him in hurried words 
what they had to expect, he dropped the stones, and they 
began to look about for a place of safety. It was not far 
to a high rock upon which they both scrambled, and then 
Bromley let himself down again, and passed up a number 
of angular stones for ammunition. Whatever the myste- 
rious beast might be, they could keep him off from the 
rock for a time, but they were not prepared for a siege. 
They had little to say to each other, and that in whispers, 
as they strained their eyes to look into the entrance to the 
cavern. Bromley, however, was softly humming a tune, 
and just as Coleman looked up at him in astonishment he 
dropped the stones from his hands and burst into laughter ; 
and sure enough, there in the mouth of the cavern stood 
their tame bear. Tumbler, wagging his head from side to 



THE CAVE OF THE BATS 225 

side just as Coleman had seen the mysterious eyes move in 
the darkness, and, moreover, he was still licking his chops 
after the feast he had made on the bats. 

Lieutenant Coleman had been so alarmed at first, and 
then so gratified at the happy outcome of his adventure, 
that he had not noticed the character of the stones which 
Bromley had been handling. It was not until his atten- 
tion was caUed to a flake of mica that he looked about him 
on the ground, to see everywhere blocks and flakes of what 
is commonly caUed isinglass. They could have something 
better than wooden shutters for their windows now. 

By a certain gnai'led chestnut which overhung the cliff 
above them, growing out of the hill near the spring, they 
estimated the length of the subterraneous passage to be 
not less than a quarter of a mile. The sun, which had 
broken through the clouds, indicated by the angle of his 
rays that the afternoon was well past. They now thought 
it advisable to retrace their steps through the unsavory 
cavern. In view of the stifling passage, Coleman inhaled 
deep drafts of the sweet outer air, and shuddered in- 
voluntarily at the necessity of repeating the experience, 
even when he knew the animal now following him was 
only stupid old Tumbler. George handed him a piece of 
the mica to carry, and his careless, happy mood indicated 
that he returned to the subterraneous passage as gaily as 
if it were a pleasant walk overland. As they drew near 
the entrance to the cavern, with the bear shambling at 
their heels, an indefinable dread of trouble ahead took 
possession of Coleman. It might have been the absence of 



226 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

the resinous smell of the torches. At all events, they were 
presently standing in the gruesome half-light before the 
empty crevice, through which they could see their pine- 
knots still burning fifty feet below in an inner cavern. 
As their torches had burned to the edge of the rock they had 
fallen through the opening. They were without fire, and if 
they should succeed in striking it with their flints, they had 
no means of carrying it a hundred yards into the darkness. 

The situation was frightful. Outside, the perpendicular 
cliff rose a matter of sixty feet to the overhanging trees 
of the plateau, and close to the south ledge, which towered 
above it. The two men and the bear were prisoners on 
this barren shelf of rocks, with a quarter of a mile of 
subterraneous darkness separating them from food and 
shelter— from life itseK. Was it theii* destiny, Coleman 
thought, to die of starvation among these inhospitable 
rocks, hung like a speck between the plateau and the 
valley, watched by the circling eagles and by the patient 
buzzards, who would perch on the nearer tree-tops to 
await their dissolution ? The very thought of the situation 
unmanned him. 

Lieutenant Coleman was not a man to shrink from ene- 
mies whom he could see ; but the darkness and the dan- 
gers of the half-explored cavern terrified him. Corporal 
Bromley, on the other hand, was only made angry by the 
loss of the torches ; and the livid expression of his face 
reminded his comrade of the morning when they had 
received the news of General Sherman's death before the 
works at Atlanta. In a moment, however, he was calm. 




EXPLOKING THE CAVE OF TflE BATS. 



THE CAVE OF THE BATS 229 

Without a word, he walked away among the rocks, and 
when he came back he held in his hands a lithe pole ten 
or twelve feet long. 

''Not a very interesting outlook, Fred, for a man who 
would rather be eating his supper," said George, trying 
the strength of his pole; "but you must be patient and 
amuse yourseK as best you can." 

Lieutenant Coleman stared at Bromley in speechless 
amazement as he disappeared into the cavern, carrying the 
pole across his breast. It was something less than courage— 
it was the utter absence of the instinct of fear which the others 
had so often noticed in his character. Would he succeed the 
better for the very want of this quality with which the All- 
wise has armed animal life for its protection ? Perhaps. 

The bear was snuffing about Coleman as if he were trying to 
understand why he remained ; and when he failed to attract 
his attention, he turned about and shambled after Bromley. 

Although Coleman was deeply concerned by the dangers 
which threatened his comrade, he reasoned with certainty 
that wherever Bromley was, he was as calm as an oyster, 
regarding his progress as only a question of time and 
some bruises. 

To keep his mind away from the cavern, he rose mechan- 
ically, and began to gather up the fragments of mica and 
heap them together. For an hour he threaded his way 
among the rocks, thus employed. The glittering heap 
grew larger, for the supply was quite inexhaustible, and 
he discovered fresh deposits on every hand. 

It was now grown quite dark, and he made his way to 



230 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

the mouth of the cavern, vainly hoping to see a star ad- 
vancing in the darkness, but only to meet a flight of bats 
wheeling out into the night. Carefully he crept back and 
seated himself on a smooth stone by the side of his store 
of mica, and imagined himself a hunter in the middle of 
a trackless desert, dying for a drop of water beside a 
princely fortune in accumulated elephants' tusks. When 
he looked up the dark mass of the tree-crowned cliff cut 
softly against a lighter gloom ; but when he turned his 
eyes away from the mountain, the sky or the clouds, or 
whatever it might be, seemed to surround him and press 
upon him. Oh, for one star in the distance to lift the sky 
from his head ; or, better yet, the calm face of the moon, and 
the touch of its yellow light on tree and stone ! Instead 
of anything so cheerful, a patter of raindrops met his up- 
turned face, as if in mockery of his wish ; and then the 
rain increased to a steady downpour, beating from the 
east, and he knew the autumnal equinox was upon them. 
He reflected that George might never feel the rain. Miser- 
able thought ! What if he were to perish in the darkness, 
separated from him and from Phihp, after having lived 
so long together ! Coleman might have sought shelter in 
the mouth of the cavern; but he was indifferent to the 
rain falling on his bare back and canvas trousers. 

How long he had been waiting, two hours or three, he 
had no means of telling. His watch had long since ceased 
to run. Up on the plateau they had noon-marks at the 
house and at the mill, and at night, when it was clear, 
they went out and looked at the seven stars. He was 



THE CAVE OF THE BATS 231 

thoroughly drenched by the rain, which had now been 
falling for a long time. Certainly George should have 
returned before this, if all had gone well with him. And 
then his mind returned to the contemplation of that other 
possibility with a perverseness over which he could exer- 
cise no control. He saw Bromley lost in some undiscovered 
byway of the subterraneous passage, groping his way 
hopelessly into the center of the mountain ; knowing that 
he was lost when, go which way he would, his pole no 
longer reached the walls. He saw him retracing his steps, 
now going this way, now that, but always going he knew 
not whither, too brave to yield to despair. 

Then he saw him in a lower cavern, where he had fallen 
through the floor, groping about the rough walls with 
bleeding hands and staring eyes, patiently searching for 
a foothold, his indomitable pluck never failing him. Hor- 
rible as these fancies were, others more dreadful oppressed 
his half -wakeful mind ; for he was so tired that in spite 
of the rain he lapsed into a state of unconsciousness, in 
which he dreamed that the roof of that suffocating cavern, 
covered with the brown blotches of bats, was setthng 
slowly upon George, until he could no longer walk erect. 
Lower, lower it came in its fearful descent, until it bumped 
his head as he crawled. Now the roof grazes his back as 
he writhes on his belly like a snake. 

''Fred! Old boy! Fred!" 

And there stood Bromley in the flesh, as calm as if 
nothing unusual had happened, the raindrops hissing in 
the flame of his torch. 




CHAPTER XX 

THE STAINED-GLASS WINDOWS AND THE PRISMATIC FOWLS 

> WING to the difficulties of the passage through 
the cave of the bats, and the utter barrenness 
of the rocky half-acre which lay at its other 
end, the three soldiers never entered it again 
during the fall and winter which followed its discovery. 
The two blocks of isinglass which they had brought away on 
their first visit were ample for their purpose ; and as soon 
as they had secured their supply of fat pine-knots for light 
in the long winter evenings, they set about constructing 
two windows to take the place of the sliding boards which 
closed those openings in the cold, snowy days. It is true, 
they could not look out through the new windows, but 
much light could enter where all had been darkness before. 
Time was nothing to the soldiers in these late autumn days ; 
and, indeed, the more of it they could spend on any work 
they undertook, the more such work contributed to their 
contentment and happiness. They wished to have their win- 
dows ornamental as well as useful ; and it was Philip's sug- 
gestion that they should try an imitation of stained glass. 

232 



STAINED-GLASS WINDOWS AND PRISMATIC FOWLS 233 

They had some of the carbine cartridges left; and as 
they no longer killed any creatures, the bullets would 
supply them with lead to unite the small pieces of isin- 
glass and outline theii' designs. One of the mica blocks 
chanced to be of a pale-green color, and they made many 
experiments to produce reds and blues. Oxid of u'on, or 
the common red iron-rust, gave a rich carmine powder, 
which, mixed with the white of an egg, adhered to the 
inner side of the small panes. They found a few dried 
huckleberries, from which they extracted a strong blue by 
boiling. They could procure yellow only by beating a 
small bit of gold to the thinnest leaf, which they pasted 
upon the flake of mica. The reds and blues as they ap- 
plied them were only water-colors ; but the inner side of 
the glass was not exposed to the rain. After the one 
square window, which looked toward the Cove and conse- 
quently let in the afternoon sun, was finished in a fantastic 
arrangement of the three rich colors, bordered by pale 
green, it was decided, with gi-eat enthusiasm, to reproduce 
in the opposite window their dear old flag with its thirty- 
five stars. To do this, they cut away the logs on one side 
until they had doubled the area of the opening. They 
managed to stiffen the frame on the inner side with strips 
of dogwood, which made a single cross against the light, 
leaving the blue field of stars unobstructed. 

It was a gi-eat comfort to their patriotic hearts to see 
the sun glowing on their United States window when they 
awoke in the morning, or to see the ruddy firelight danc- 
ing on the old flag, if one of them came in from the mill 



234 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

or the branch in the evening. In fact, when this work was 
finished, the three soldiers, wrapped in their faded blue 
overcoats, were never tired of walking about outside their 
house, in the chilly November evenings, to admu'e their first 
art- work illuminated by the torch-Ught witliin. Their tough, 
bare feet, insensible to the sharp stones and the gray hoar- 
frost, wore away the withered grass opposite to each of their 
stained-glass windows ; but the patch of trodden earth out- 
side the window which showed the glowing stripes and 
gleaming stars of the old flag was much the larger. 

Otherwise their prospects for the winter were by no 
means as brilliant as thek* windows ; for besides the failure 
in the potato crop, the white grubs had made sad havoc 
with their corn in two successive plantings, and the yield 
in October had been alarmingly light. Even the chestnuts 
had been subject to a blight ; and altogether it was what 
the farmers would call " a bad year." The fowls had in- 
creased to an alarming extent, considering the necessity 
of feeding so many, and as winter approached their eggs 
were fewer than ever. The case was not so bad that it 
would be necessary to shorten their rations, as they had 
done before the harvest of the first year ; but with so many 
mouths to feed, there was danger that they would find 
themselves without seed for the next planting. Then, 
too, there was a very grave danger that before spring 
these stubborn vegetarians would be forced to resort to 
broiled chicken, spiced with gunpowder, which was nearly 
as repulsive to their minds as leaving the mountain and 
going down into a triumphant Confederacy. 



STAINED-GLASS WINDOWS AND PRISMATIC FOWLS 235 

The bear, at least, would require no feeding, and with 
the very first snow old Tumbler disappeared as usual, 
making the soldiers rather wish that, for this particular 
winter, hibernation could be practised by human animals 
as well as by bears. 

After Christmas the weather became unusually cold, 
and the winds swept with terrific force across the top of 
the mountain. The snow was so deep that the path they 
dug to the mm was banked above their heads as they 
walked in it, and the mill itself showed only its half -roof 
of shingles and its long water-trough above the surface of 
the snow. From the trough huge icicles were pendent, 
and it was ornamented with great curves of snow; and 
when Philip set the wheels in motion, a gray dust rose 
above the bank, and the whii* of the grinding as heard at 
the house was subdued and muffled hke the very ghost of 
a sound. The soldiers dug open spaces to give light, out- 
side the stained-glass windows, and through these the 
evening firelight repeated the gorgeous colors on the 
snow. 

From the path to the mill they dug a branch to the 
forge, and tunneled a passage to the water, from which 
they broke the ice every day. Short as was their supply 
of corn, they were obliged to feed it to the fowls with a 
lavish hand as long as the deep snow remained. This 
necessity kept them busy shelling the ears by the fire in 
the warm house, after they had brought them in from the 
mill or the forge, and half a gunny-sack of corn was thrown 
out on the snow at the morning and evening feeding. 



236 THE LAST THREE SOLDIEKS 

Since the hut of the old man of the mountain had been 
made into a forge, the fowls had roosted in the branches 
of the old chestnuts, and had got on very well, even in the 
winters that were past. With full crops, they seemed to 
he thi'iving equally well during the severe cold wliich at- 
tended the period of deep snow. 

The 15th of January in the new year, which was 1871, 
was the first of a foui- days' thaw. The sun beamed with 
unusual heat on the mountain, and under his rays the 
snow rapidly disappeared, and the ground came to light 
again with its store of dry seeds. The three-pronged 
tracks of the fowls were printed everywhere in the soft 
top-soil, where they scampered about in pursuit of grubs 
and worms. On the fourth day the avalanche fell from 
the great boulder into the Cove, with the usual midwinter 
crashes and reverberations, which reminded Philip of his 
narrow escape the winter before. 

On the evening of this fourth day the thaw was followed 
by a light rain, which froze as it fell, and developed into a 
regular ice-storm during the night. When the three 
soldiers looked out on the morning of the 19th, they found 
their house coated with ice, and the mountain-top a scene 
of ghttering enchantment. Every tree and bush was 
coated with a transparent armor of glass. The lithe hmbs 
of the birches and young chestnuts were bent downward 
in graceful curves by the weight of the ice, which, under 
the rays of the rising sun, glittered and scintillated with 
all the colors of the rainbow. Every rock and stone had 
its separate casing, and every weed and blade of grass was 



STAINED-GLASS WINDOWS AND PRISMATIC FOWLS 237 

stiffened with a tiny shining overcoat. The stalks on the 
plantation stood up like a glittering field of pikes. 

Despite the difficulty of walking over the uneven ground 
and the slippery rocks, they made their way, not without 
occasional falls, to the western side of the plateau to ob- 
serve the effect in the Cove, Philip was in raptures over 
the prismatic variety of colors, picking out and naming 
the tints with a childish glee and with a subtle apprecia- 
tion of color that far outran the limited vision of his 
comrades, and made them think that Sherman Territory 
had possibly defrauded the world below of a first-rate 
painter. 

As they turned back toward the house, after their first 
outburst of enthusiasm over the beauties of the ice-storm, 
Bromley remarked that it was strange they had not been 
awakened as usual by the crowing of the cocks. Indeed, 
the stillness of the hour was remarkable. It was strange 
that while they had lain in their bunks after daybreak 
they had not heard the cocks answering one another from 
one end of the plateau to the other. 

Usually they heard first the clear, ringing note of some 
knowing old bird bui'st loud and shrill from under the 
very window, and then the pert reply of some upstart 
youngster who had not yet learned to manage his crow 
drifting faintly back from the rocks to the west; then 
straightway all the crowers, of all ages and of every con- 
dition of shrillness and hoarseness, tried for five mortal 
minutes to crow one another down ; and when one weak, 
far-away chicken seemed to have got the last word, an- 



238 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

other would break the stillness, and the strident contest 
would begin again. 

Perhaps they had heard all this and not noticed it. 
They were so used to the noise ; it was like the ticking of 
a clock or the measured pounding of the Slow-John ; but 
it was certain that nothing of the kind was going on at 
present. 

In leaving the house they had been so enchanted by the 
hues of the ice-storm that they now remembered they had 
not so much as turned their eyes in the direction of the 
roost. When they came upon the brow of the hill which 
overlooked the mill,— which was a silver mill now,— the 
limbs of the trees which stretched along the bank beyond 
were crowded with the fowls, at least four hundred of 
them, sitting still on their perches. Philip, who fell 
down in his eagerness, and rolled over on the ice, re- 
marked as he got upon his feet that it was too knowing a 
flock of birds to leave the sure hold it had on the limbs to 
come down onto the slippery ground. 

As the soldiers came nearer, however, they noticed that 
their fowls in the sunlight were quite the most brilliantly 
prismatic objects they had seen ; for their red combs and 
party-colored feathers made a rich showing through the 
transparent coating of ice which enveloped them like shells 
and held them fast to the limbs where they sat. Wliether 
they had been frozen stiff or smothered by the icy envelop, 
they were unable to determine ; but they could see that 
all the fowls had met with a very beautiful death, except 
two or three of the toughest old roosters, who had man- 



STAINED-GLASS WINDOWS AND PRISMATIC FOWLS 239 

aged to crack the icy winding-sheet about their bills. 
One of these, who had more life in him than the others, 
made a dismal attempt to crow. 

Bromley hastened to get the ladder from the mill, and 
the hatchet, and wherever a living bird was to be seen he 
put up the ladder regardless of the dead ones, which broke 
off and fell down, and chipping the ice about its claws, 
removed it tenderly to the ground. In the end the 
three soldiers carried just two apiece, one under each arm, 
of these tough old veterans into the house, and not daring 
to bring them near the fire, set them up to thaw gradually 
against the inner side of the door. Then they made a 
pot of hasty-pudding for their own breakfast ; but before 
they touched it themselves they fed a little of it, steaming 
hot, to each reviving old bird. In fact, the poor fowls 
looked so much like colored- glass images, ^when tilted 
against the door, that, fearing at any moment they might 
topple over and break into fragments, they laid each 
rooster carefully on his side, where the ice melted by 
degrees into sloppy pools on the floor. 

The oldest of these unhappy survivors had come up the 
mountain tied to a pack-saddle, and consequently was more 
than six years old. He was big of frame and tawny of 
color, and had long, sharp spurs curved like smaU powder- 
horns, and his crow when he was in good health proclaimed 
him the leader of the flock. The other five cocks, although 
but a trifle younger, belonged to the next generation, for 
they came of the first summer's hatching. Their plumage 
was red and black, and their long, sweeping tail-feathers 



240 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

cased in ice would certainly have been snapped off if they 
had had the least power to move their bodies. As the ice 
melted from their heads, they looked about the house 
with their round red eyes, and otherwise lay quite helpless 
on their sides, their claws drawn up to their crops, and 
cui'ved as they had been taken from the limbs. 

The soldiers looked on, full of sympathy, and fed their 
patients now and then with a small portion of warm 
pudding; and finally, remembering their medicine-chest, 
which they had never yet had occasion to use, they waited 
patiently until the ice melted, so that they could handle 
the fowls without danger of breaking, and then they held 
each rooster up by the neck and dosed him with a spoon- 
ful of whisky and quinine. 

Following this prescription they laid the old bu'ds in a 
row on a warm blanket, sufficiently elevating their heads, 
and covering them up to their bills, and left them to sleep 
and sweat after the most approved hospital practice. 

And now, having done theh' duty by the living, they 
went outside to look at the dead, which were, if possible, 
more beautiful than ever. The sun was unusually warm, 
and by this time everything was dripping and glittering 
in the light, which was half blinding, and the thin ice was 
snapping everywhere as the lightened hmbs sought to re- 
gain their natural positions. As to the dead fowls, a few 
had fallen to the ground, but most of them remained 
rigidly perched on the great limbs, dripping a shower 
of raindrops upon the ice below. Here and there, where 
a few rays of the sun had found passage to a particular 



STAINED-GLASS WINDOWS AND PRISMATIC FOWLS 241 

limb, a section of the icy coating had turned so that a 
half-dozen fowls hung heads downward, or the casing of a 
hen had melted, while her claws were still frozen fast, leav- 
ing her to lop over against her neighbor for support. 

By afternoon they began to faU off the branches like 
ripened fruit, and drop on the ground with a thud like 
apples in an orchard on a windy day. It was a dismal 
sound in the ears of the three soldiers, and a sad sight to 
see the heaps of dead fowls as they accumulated on the 
ground. 

The military training of these young men had taught 
them to make the most of every reverse, and if possible to 
turn defeat into victory; and so they fell to work and 
plucked off a great quantity of soft feathers, and all the 
next day was spent in skinning the breasts, which they 
would find some way to cure and make into covers for 
their beds, or even garments for themselves. A portion 
of the carcases they tried out over the fire, and made a 
brave supply of oil for the mill, and then the poor remains 
were thrown over the cliff. 

The six old roosters remained alive in a crippled and 
deformed condition, some having three stumpy toes to a 
foot, and others two or one, on which they wabbled and 
limped about with molting feathers and abbreviated combs, 
the most dismal-looking fowls that can be imagined. The 
old yeUow patriarch was paralyzed as to his legs and thighs, 
so that he was nearly as helpless as a tailor's goose, and 
had to be set about and fed like an infant. For the five 
red ones Bromley fixed a roost in the corner of the house 



242 THE LAST THREE SOLDIEES 

behind the door, where some of them had to be helped up 
at night, and where they crowed hoarsely in the morning, 
over against the window of the stained-glass flag. 

Philip, in pursuance of a brilliant idea which he kept to 
himself, selected a dozen of the new-laid eggs which they 
happened to have in the house, and put them away in a 
warm place where no breath of frost could reach them. 
When the first warm days of spring came, he made a nest 
of corn-husks and feathers on a sunny shoulder of rock. 
Into this nest he put the eggs he had saved, and covered 
them with the old paralyzed yellow rooster, who had never 
been known to move from where he was set down since 
the night he was frozen on the limb. The indignant old 
bird certainly gave PhiUp a look of remonstrance as he 
left him in this degrading position ; and when PhUip came 
a few hours later to feed him, this cunning old rooster, 
strengthened perhaps by his outraged feelings, had in some 
way managed to turn over so that he lay on his side on 
the rock, his helpless claws extending stiffly over the nest. 
As often as he was set back he managed to accomplish the 
same feat, when if left on the ground he would sit for a 
week where he was placed, as stolid and immovable as a 
decoy-duck. 

The loss of the fowls had left an abundance of corn for 
planting ; but when the warm days came after this trying 
winter, it was a queer sight to see the thi-ee soldiers walk- 
ing about the top of the mountain, with their five sad roos- 
ters wabbling at their heels. 




CHAPTER XXI 

A SCRAP OF PAPER 

>HE long, cold winter of 1870, which froze all the 
fowls except the six sad roosters, and followed 
the failure of the potato and corn crops, was also 
disastrous to the bees. The hives had inci'eased 
to a fine long row in the years that followed the capture 
of the first swarm discovered by Tumbler, the bear, and 
the honey had been a welcome addition to the soldiers' 
simple fare; but the cold weather had destroyed every 
swarm, leaving only bee-bread and some half-consumed 
old combs from which the dead bees had fallen in a dry 
mass upon the bench below. 

While Coleman and Bromley were engaged in planting, 
Philip was making an effort to find a new bee-tree. He 
had noticed some bees buzzing about the wild flowers on 
the ridge by the old flagging-station, and he determined 
to " line " them by a method he had seen his uncle prac- 
tise when he was a boy in Ohio. He made a little box 
with a sliding cover, into which he put a small honey- 
comb, and taking the old yellow rooster under one arm 

243 



244 THE LAST THEEE SOLDIERS 

for company,— or perhaps for luck,— he went over to 
where the flowers grew near the northern end of the 
plateau. He set down the old rooster on the ground, and 
opened the box on a stone in front of him, and waited, 
watching his bait. It was something like fishing in the 
old mill-pond, of which he had once been fond, and he 
found a singular fascination about watching the opening 
in the box as he used to watch his bobber. The June 
weather on the mountain was like May in the Ohio valley, 
and the sweet smell of the flowers carried his mind back 
to his old home. He had no longer to wait for the first 
nibble than he had waited in the old days for the first stir 
of his cork and the spreading ring on the water. A bee 
lighted on the lid and then made his way down into the 
box. After loading his legs with honey, the bee reap- 
peared, and rising into the air, flew away to the south. 
Philip followed the small insect with his eyes, and then, 
picking up the old rooster, he came on for a hundred 
yards in the same direction, and set his bait as before. 
This time he had two bees in his box, and when 
they had loaded themselves they flew away in the same 
direction as the first. They disappeared so soon above the 
tree-tops that he thought the swarm was not far away; 
but every time he advanced, the loaded bees continued to 
fly south, until he had moved the paralyzed old rooster by 
easy stages the whole length of the plateau ; and the bees, 
which came in greater numbers now, rose into the air and 
flew in a *' bee-line " over the top of the southern cliff. 
Philip was disgusted at this result of his bee-hunt, as 



A SCRAP OF PAPER 245 

any fisherman, after wading to his middle in a cold river 
to humor a fine trout, might be, to lose his victim at last 
in the foaming rapids ; but he knew to a certainty that 
there was a bee-tree somewhere beyond the thus far un- 
scalable southern cliff. 

For the present the vision of honey was abandoned, and 
the economy of the camp, where food was now alarmingly 
low, was cunningly exercised to discover edible things in 
lieu of the corn, which, after the planting, was all stored 
in the nine gunny-sacks which had fallen from the balloon. 
The sacks were piled one upon another in a small heap 
behind the hopper in the mill, and the six sad roosters had 
to shift for themselves as best they could, except the old 
fellow who was paralyzed, and for him they gathered grubs 
and worms, and saved the crumbs that fell from the table. 

It appeared possible to the minds of the soldiers that 
the liver-colored slabs of fungus which grew out of the 
sides of the chestnut-trees and the birches might be as 
palatable and nourishing as mushrooms. They broke off 
one of these pieces one day, which was shaped like the 
half of an inverted saucer, and was moist and clammy on 
the under side. They had a suspicion that such things 
were poison. They had never heard of any one eating 
the Hke, and after they had stewed it in their camp-kettle, 
inviting as its odor was, they sniffed and hesitated and 
feared to taste it. In the end they shook their heads, and 
spilled the contents of the kettle on the ground, where as 
soon as their backs were turned Tumbler and the five sad 
roosters feU to devouring the rejected food. 



246 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

When the soldiers discovered what their domestic ani- 
mals were about, the bear was licking his chops and the 
old roosters were waltzing about in the grass picking up 
the last morsels of the feast. They regretted their care- 
lessness, and rather expected that before night the old 
paralyzed rooster would be their only living companion 
on the mountain. 

When, however, the bear and the five sad roosters sur- 
vived the test, and seemed rather to flourish on the new 
food, the soldiers took heart, and found the fungus not 
only good, but so much like meat that it was quite star- 
tling to their vegetarian palates. 

After eating all of this peculiar food-product that grew 
on the plateau, they gleaned the field above the deep gorge, 
and as a last resort they made a hunting expedition to the 
half-acre of rocks and brambles where they had found the 
mica. Terrible as the passage through the cavern had at 
first seemed to the mind of Lieutenant Coleman, the lapse 
of time and a better acquaintance with the interior of the 
subterraneous tunnel made it but a commonplace covered 
way to the field of mica. Not that the soldiers had any 
further use for the mineral wealth which was so lavishly 
strewn among the rocks. It was as valueless to them now 
as the button-hook found in the hand-bag of alligator-skin. 
To go now and then through the underground passage, 
however, if only for the purpose of looking at the world 
outside from the view-point of their newest territorial 
possession, was a temptation which no landed proprietors 
could resist. The little shelf afforded them a glimpse to 




'HE WAS DOWK (j:^ HIS HANDS AND K^EE6 Ui'U^' TiDi lUfvF.' 



A SCRAP OF PAPER 249 

the south of the Cove road, which on account of certain 
intervening trees was not to be had from the plateau 
above. Several cabins could be seen smoking in the small 
clearings which surrounded them, but since the telescope 
had gone into the avalanche with Philip there was but 
poor satisfaction in looking at them. 

They found a single piece of the liver-colored fungus 
growing on the root of a half-decayed old chestnut, and 
even this they regarded as well worth their journey. They 
spent some time wandering about the mica shelf, and 
when Lieutenant Coleman and Philip were boring their 
torches into the ground, one after the other, to rid them 
of the dead coal, and getting ready for the start back, 
Bromley, who had been poking about among the rocks, 
called to them in a tone of voice that indicated a pretty 
important discovery in the stone line. He was down on 
his hands and knees on the turf, boring his toes into the 
soil, and as his comrades approached him, he exclaimed : 
" I have n't touched it yet. Just come here and look ! " 
Naturally, Coleman and Philip thought he had found 
some curious reptile. Instead, however, of this being the 
case, Bromley was kneeling over a scrap of newspaper 
which was impaled on a dead twig under the shelter of a 
rock where neither the sun nor the rain could reach it. 
The torn fragment was scarcely larger than the palm of 
one's hand, and snugly as it was now protected from the 
weather, it was yellow from former exposure, and the print 
was much faded, so that parts of it were illegible. It was 
possible, however, to decipher enough of the small adver- 

14 



250 THE LAST THREE SOLDIEKS 

tisements on the exposed side to show that it was a 
Charleston paper, and they knew of course that it must 
have come by the balloon almost a year before. Undoubt- 
edly it had lain for a long time on the plateau above, ex- 
posed to the storms, before the wind had tossed it over 
the cliff and landed it in such a wonderful way on the twig" 
under the cover of the rock. 

On the reverse side most of the print was fairly legible. 
The scrap was torn from the top of the paper, and had 
on it a capital G, which was the only letter left of the 
name of the paper. The line below read : '' September 
[date of month gone], 18-0." The center column was 
headed : 

"FOREIGN WORLD 

" The Hon. Charles Snoivden, M. P., goes down with his yacht 
— Earthquake in Spain; four distinct shocks felt— No 
dam e done— Movement of specie 

"■ London, September 4. The steam-yacht of the Hon- 
orable Charles Snowden, M. P., which was wrecked yes- 
terday off the old Head of Kinsale on the south coast of 
Ireland, was this morning looted by thieves. The ri , 
plate, carpets, upholstery, and fittings, as well as 
quantity of storage, sails, and stores, were taken. Lights 
were seen from the mainland at two o'clock this morning, 
when a heavy sea was running. 

" Later. The Hon. Charles Snowden and the first offi- 
cer of the boat lost their lives by the swamping of the 
raft on which they had embarked. 



A SCRAP OF PAPER 251 

" Madrid, September 4. Four distinct shocks of an 
earthquake this morning were felt in the province 
of Granada, in the south of Spain. Coming as t 
shocks have, twenty-four hours later than the 
ances reported on the coast of Italy by y 
ws, would indicate that the disturbance 
No damage is reported. In 
from the vineyards." 

What remained of the right-hand column bore, to the 
soldiers, these surprising words, in sentences and parts of 
sentences : 

" Local Happenings— Charleston— 
B. E. Lee as General— Sherman at the War Office 

"The controversy just concluded between the Couri 
Mercury on the strategic merits of the two command 
developed nothing new. The Sherman cam 
ending at the city of Atlanta 
ably discussed and with 
justice to the dead comma 
The great 'March to the Sea, b 
More brilliant achievement 
of the war and its 
in another colum 
South is satisfie 
happy endin" 

When Coleman and Philip caught the first glimpse of 
the scrap of paper, tattered and yellow, they believed it to 



252 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

be some fragment of the Blue Book whicli they themselves 
had discarded. The exposed surface was almost as free 
of print as if it had been treated with potash, and looked 
as insignificant as a dried leaf or a section of corn-husk. 
Bromley, on the other hand, had examined it more closely, 
and just as Coleman began to laugh at him, he put out 
his hand and removed the scrap of paper from the twig 
which held it fast ; and as he turned it over to the light, 
he was nearly as much surprised as his companions. 

The three were down on their knees in an instant, 
eagerly devouring the words of the head-lines ; and Philip 
being on the right, it happened that his eyes were the first 
to fall on the name of General Sherman. 

"'Sherman at the War Office'!" he cried. "What 
does that mean ? " 

" It means we have been deceived," said Coleman. " I—" 

" Hurrah ! " cried Philip, leaping up and dancing about 
untU the rags of his tattered clothing fluttered in the sun- 
light. " Hurrah ! Uncle Billy is alive ! He never was 
killed at all ! If that message was false, they were aU 
false— all hes! lies! What fools we have been! We 
must leave the mountain to-morrow— to-night." 

"We have been the victims of an infamous decep- 
tion," exclaimed Lieutenant Coleman. "Let us go back 
to the house at once, and determine what is to be 
done." 

Against this undue haste Bromley remonstrated feebly, 
for he himseK was laboring under unusual excitement. 
His eyes were so dimmed by a suffusion of something very 



A SCRAP OF PAPER 253 

like tears — tears of anger — that he could read no further 
for the moment, and he put the paper carefully into his 
pocket, and picked up his torch and followed his comrades 
sulkily into the cavern. 

Upon Bromley's peculiar character this new revelation 
had a depressing effect. He still entertained doubts. If 
the new hope was finally realized, his joy would be as deep 
and sincere as that of the others. For the present, the 
thought that they might have been deceived all along 
angered him. He had an inclination to stop even then 
and examine the paper more fully by torch-light ; but the 
underground passage was long, and the pine-knot he car- 
ried was burning low. He felt obliged to hasten on after 
Coleman and Philip, who were now considerably in ad- 
vance. They were still in view, however, and as he held 
the torch to one side that which he saw far up the nar- 
rowing cavern had a softening effect on his conflicting 
emotions. He even laughed at the grotesque exhibition ; 
for the small figures of Coleman and Philip were dancing 
and hugging each other and dashing their torches against 
the rocks in a way that made them look like mad sala- 
manders in the circling flames and sparks. 

Such reckless enthusiasm was a condition of mind which 
George could not understand ; but the possibility occurred 
to him that in their wild excitement they might set fire to 
the house as a beacon-light to the people in the valley ; for 
they could never get away from the plateau without help 
from beyond the deep gorge. 

To prevent, if possible, any rash action on the part of 



254 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

his more excited comrades, Bromley hurried his pace, and, 
in the effort to overtake them, soon found himself leaping 
over obstacles and dodging corners of the rocky -wall in a 
wild race, which tended to excite even his phlegmatic na- 
ture. As he ran on, that magical sentence, *' Sherman at 
the "War Office," stood out in black letters before his eyes. 
What war office ? If the paper referred to the war office 
of the United States, it certainly would have so designated 
a department of a foreign government. If there were two 
governments, it would be necessary to say which war office 
was meant. If the old government in whose military ser- 
vice he had enlisted as a boy had regained its own, the 
phrase " Sherman at the War Office " would be natural and 
correct 5 and with this triumphant conviction he ran on 
the faster. On the other hand, if the Confederacy had 
gained everything!— at the sickening thought his feet 
became so heavy that his speed relapsed into a labored 
waUi, and the oppressive air of the cavern seemed to stifle 
him. 

He would reach his companions as soon as possible, and 
compel them to examine the scrap of paper and weigh its 
every word. It was beginning to dawn upon Bromley that 
they had acted like children; and when he finally came 
out at the entrance to the cave of the bats into the sub- 
dued light under the dark pines, he found Philip and 
Coleman waiting for him, and clamoring for another look 
at the scrap of paper. 

There was not much to read in the fraction of a column 
that interested them most, but Philip and Coleman were 



A SCRAP OF PAPER 255 

determined to twist the reading to the support of their 
new hopes, and Bromley naturally took the opposite view, 
heartily wishing, however, that the others might prove him 
mistaken. There was something in the reading of the 
broken sentences that tended to quiet the enthusiasm of 
Lieutenant Coleman, and when Bromley could make him- 
self heard, he called attention to the second sentence, " The 
Sherman campaign ending at the Atlanta, ably dis- 
cussed," and " Justice to the dead commander." What dead 
commander, if not General Sherman ? If he had lived his 
campaign would not have ended at Atlanta. It was evi- 
dent that there had been a newspaper controversy in 
Charleston on the merits of two campaigns by Sherman 
and Lee— the Atlanta campaign and the March to the 
Sea— whatever that might be. The latter, Bromley 
thought, was clearly some achievement of Lee's. And 
then he remembered his prophecy on the night when they 
had changed the name of the plateau from Lincoln to 
Sherman Territory. 

" It proves," cried Bromley, " just what I foresaw : that, 
after the capture of Washington, Lee led his army across 
Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, living on the 
country, to meet the foreign allies of the Confederacy in 
the harbor of New York. It was certainly a brilliant 
mihtary movement. Look," he cried, when the others 
were silent, " ' South is satisfied— happy ending—' " 

"But," said Philip, still obstinate, "what do you make 
of those five words, ' Sherman at the War Office ' ? How 
do you get around that ? " 



256 THE LAST THEEE SOLDIERS 

''Why, my dear boy/' said Bromley, "this is only the 
heading of a newspaper article. It does not mean that 
General Sherman was at the war office in person. It 
simply refers to General Sherman's record in the War 
Department." 

After all their excitement, Coleman and Philip were 
obliged to give way to the convincing evidence revealed 
in the broken sentences. They were too tired by this time 
to consider the bits of foreign news, or notice the dates, 
and it was quite dark when they reached the house and 
went dejected and supperless to bed. 

The next morning they got down the map, and looked 
ruefully at the States which Lee must have devastated in 
his triumphant march. With the consent of the others, 
Bromley took a pen and traced the probable route by 
Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Trenton to the Jersey coast 
of New York harbor. Bromley was determined to lay 
out the line of march by Harrisburg, and was restrained 
only by physical force, which resulted in blotting the 
map at the point where his clumsy line was arrested. 
They agreed, however, that Lee's victorious army had 
undoubtedly camped on the lower bay and along the 
Raritan River, in the country between Perth Amboy and 
the old battle-field of Monmouth. They were convinced 
that the map was utterly wrong, for after such a march it 
was doubtful if there were any United States at aU. The 
disaster appeared more overwhelming than ever, and they 
hung the map back on the wall— in another place, how- 
ever, for it was discovered that the rain had beaten through 



. G 




FOREK^I^ ^WOKL. 



THE HOW CHAS. NOWDEN, M. P., GOES F/ftWy 
W ITH ^IS YA 'HT— EAKTHQrAKE I^ OPMS- 
FOCR'' DlSrr CT 8H0CEH FIXT-^'O J.AM- 



. £OC.ii HAPPEXmaS, CHABLE 
4 B. E. LEE liii GENERAL~f> 

MAN AT TBE WAS OFl 

j Tlie controversy Joat coneladed between tt 
Mercury on tlie strategic merits of the two 
Jeveloped notbingr new. The Sbecmap 
ending.it the City of AUanta^^ 
ably discussed and witlf " 
jastiee to the dead combat. 
The great Marcb to the se«, ^ 
pt^a -ler iih — ^The «> im yacht of tte^ ' ^"re briUiant acbtsTemen^ 

d '<-'ii.' Chabje-^ Ssowbjvs, it. P, which T^ia » of the war and its- -^ 

uSTevki.l y.-stera«> off th«^Oia hea 1 i,f Kintjilcoti fue 1 :n another eolio^ 

«3«tli ooAtit of U -Un'!, wa< this mornML»ri, ! hv [ .South is datlsfle* 

thlovrg The rir ^ pl«te, >i<~pt^. ii' " jls^mL. ' <■•> , happy cndjir/' 

tings, ns well a&'t large qoantitj jf emrdapvAu aad J ~ 

stores^ wore fcak»i •. XiRhts sta'e seeS'fiStti tue mam- 
land at t«o o'clx-i tUii mc.faiag„wbeB a bear? sta 

' \3 rnnnlng. 

I.ATf j..~Xl'> ilim r<JvELE8 ^^o■n••DE.■^ ».i t 'I « i "St 
o^iwt of the b lat lost their ll^ofl by the swaaipjpg of 
tbe nut on wb.ab th"y h;^ omhatkoO * 

JIakb' .B it<.mber*tb.~F<rardistmo»l)BocJi«of an jJ 

> akh 1 UK 5 tl 8 morning were felt in the province of _^ 
^innaCt., lu ha south of Spain. Coming »a ♦'" 



hocSsJjaVe, -«-eBty-fonr boars later than 'be/ 
wi:fi,ort ! on tiut coast of IwSy, by > i 



■'THE SCKAP OF PAPER." 



A SCRAP OF PAPER 259 

the logs and run down across the Pacific side. Poor as it 
was, they were determined to preserve it. 

It was not until late in the afternoon of the day on 
which they had altered the map that the three soldiers 
returned to the examination of the scrap of paper which 
they had agreed from the first could have reached the 
mountain-top only by falling from the balloon the year 
before. 

" How is this ? " cried Coleman, pointing excitedly to the 
dates of the foreign telegrams. " This piece of newspaper 
could not have come by the balloon. The balloon passed 
over the mountain on September 5, having left the city of 
Charleston, as declared by the tail aeronaut, at 3 : 30 o'clock 
of the afternoon before, which was the 4th of September. 
Look at the dates for yourself," he continued, handing 
the paper to Bromley. ''Was n't the Honorable M. P. 
drowned on the morning of September 4 ? Can't you read 
there that the earthquake in Spain was on the 4th ? " 

" What of that ? " said Bromley ; " you can't make out 
the date of the paper." 

" I don't care what the date of publication was," rephed 
Coleman. " If it came by the balloon it was pubhshed 
before September 5. Now please tell me how it could 
bring European news of the 4th." 

" Hum ! " said Bromley, somewhat puzzled. " If it had 
been published on the 3d, it could n't bring news of the 
4th— that 's certain." 

"I have it," cried Philip; "Fred has got the dates of 
the diary more than a week out of the way. We thought 



260 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

the balloon passed on September 5. It was nearer the 
15th." 

"No," exclaimed Coleman, glaring at Philip; "there is 
no mistake in the record; not a date is omitted. Leap- 
year was added to the days in February when it came 
around. / make a mistake in the date ! No, sir ! There 
is no mistake. Whatever happens, I will stand on the 
rec— " 

"You are right, old man," cried Bromley, interrupting 
him 5 " and the paper proves it. Don't you see the point? 
They have got the Atlantic cable down at last, and work- 
ing like a charm. The paper was published on the 4th 
of September. It was an afternoon paper, and this piece 
fell from the balloon on the 5th of September." 

They agreed that this was wonderful as explaining with- 
out doubt what at first seemed impossible, and at the same 
time verifying the accuracy of the dates in the diary which 
Lieutenant Coleman had conducted for more than six 
years at the time the balloon passed. Coleman and Brom- 
ley remembered distinctlj^ the unsuccessful attempts at 
laying the Atlantic cable in the summer of 1858, and the 
fame of Cyrus Field as its projector ; and now by the dis- 
covery of this scrap of yellow and tattered paper they were 
made aware that the great project had been continued to 
a successful issue. Possibly they were the more keenly 
interested in this evidence of progress in the world below 
from having been themselves connected with telegraphing 
in a modest way. At all events, they regarded the yellow 
messenger as one of their most significant possessions, and 



A SCRAP OF PAPER 261 

skewered it against the chimney through the very hole 
made by the dry twig which had held it so long under the 
cover of the rock awaiting their inspection. 

It was near the end of July now, and the spears of com 
which had thrust their tiny dark-green lances out of the 
mellow earth had first turned yellow, and then withered 
and died. A few plants here and there had escaped the 
ravages of the grubs, but the yield would be insignificant, 
and they were good enough farmers by this time to know 
that to plant more would be only a waste of the small store 
of food they had left. If the lives of the fowls had been 
spared, it might have been different. At the time the 
ground had been spaded the five sad roosters had done all 
that lay in their power to exterminate the grubs, but their 
capacity was not the capacity of the four hundred fowls 
of the season before. 

The potatoes had suffered, though in less degree, from 
the same hidden enemy; and unless something could be 
done to increase their food-supply the three soldiers would 
be reduced to the verge of starvation before another winter 
came around. They might yet be forced to abandon their 
vegetarian principles and to eat the bear and the six old 
roosters. Rather than do anything so inhuman, they 
declared they would find some way to open communica- 
tion with the people in the valley. They might easily have 
planted a larger area in former years, and stored up corn 
against a failure in the crop, but of this they had never 
thought. 

The morning after they had discovered the scrap of 



262 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

paper on the mica shelf, they all went solemnly to the 
mill and watched Philip set the machinery in motion and 
grind the first of the nine small sacks of corn. The whir 
of the wheels and the hum of the stones in the midst of 
the splashing of the water outside made the sweetest of 
music in their ears, but the song of the mill was of brief 
duration. When the last kernels began to dance on the 
old cavalry boot-leg in the bottom of the hopper, the miller 
shut off the water, and in the silence that followed the 
three soldiers looked ruefully at the small heap of yellow 
meal on the floor of the dusty bin. It was not more than 
enough to keep themselves and the paralyzed old rooster 
alive for a week. If they relied upon the meal alone, in 
nine weeks they would be out of bread, and the golden 
mill would be a useless possession. 

Discovery was their only hope of further subsistence. 
They had made some remarkable finds in the past, but at 
the beginning of their eighth year on the mountain i1? 
would seem that no secrets of the plateau had escaped the 
prying eyes of these enterprising young men. Philip re- 
minded his comrades of the bee-tree, which was un- 
doubtedly stored with honey, beyond the southern cliff, 
but this they had always regarded as impassable. From 
the mica shelf they could see that it was a narrow ledge, 
and not a higher level ; and although the small shelf ex- 
tended a trifle beyond it, the soldiers had seen no way of 
scahng the rocks which rose from the brambles and mica, 
so as to reach the territory beyond the southern ledge. 

They had never seen these rocks from above, nor any 



A SCRAP OF PAPER 263 

part of the brambly half -acre, for the reason that the edge 
of the plateau shelved off in a dangerous incline of smooth 
granite, which it was not possible to look over. Other- 
wise they might have discovered the outside half -acre long 
before they found the cavernous path which led to it. 
Bromley now proposed to be lowered to the outer edge of 
the shelving rock by means of the breeches-buoy which had 
lifted Philip from his perilous seat on the avalanche. It 
was not at all a dangerous experiment, and as soon as he 
was in a position to examine the rocks below the base of 
the southern cliff, he saw a narrow ledge which would 
afford a sure foothold, and which led away upward until 
it was lost behind the rocks. Although invisible from 
below, it could be reached by their longest ladder. 

Whether the path along the ledge would enable them 
to reach the top of the mountain to the south remained to 
be determined. They were all on fire with the fever of 
exploration ; and they had no doubt that the rich bee-tree 
would reward their efforts with new stores of honey. That 
night, by means of the canvas strap, they lowered their 
ladder over the ledge until it rested on the mica shelf. 

Next morning, bright and early, Philip got out his 
small honey-box, and would have taken the old paralytic 
rooster along but for the implements it was necessary to 
carry. Besides their torches, in passing through the cav- 
ern their hands would be full with the ax and a pail for 
water, and another in which to bring back the honey. 

It was a clear July day, with a soft south wind breath- 
ing on the mountain ; and when the three soldiers arrived 



264 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

on their brambly half -acre they found their ladder leaning 
safely against the rocks where they had lowered it. After 
they had smothered their torches and laid them by to 
await their return, they tried the ladder, which proved to 
be too short by a couple of rungs to reach the path on the 
cliff. At first they thought they should be obliged to re- 
tiurn and make a longer one, but Lieutenant Coleman was 
something of an engineer on fortifications, and under his 
directions they fell to work building a platform of stones 
and timber, which afforded the ladder a secure foundation 
and raised it safely to the brow of the ledge. 

Bromley went ahead with the ax, and Coleman and 
PhiUp followed with the pails. The soldiers had brought 
along their overcoats for the fight with the bees; and 
when they put them on after the rough exercise of han- 
dling the stones, they found them rather oppressive to theu' 
brown shoulders, whose summer costume usually consisted 
of one suspender. Bromley was very red in the face as 
he pushed along on the rocky path, cutting away a root 
or an overhanging limb which obstructed their passage. 




CHAPTER XXII 

THE DESERTED HOUSE 

^HE path up which the three soldiers were 
climbing was not a path at all in the sense of 
its having been worn by the feet of men or 
animals. It was at first a narrow ledge, and 
then the dry bed of a watercourse, which overflowed for 
a few days when the snows melted in the spring, and was 
waUed in by an outer ledge, and turned upward at an easy 
incline which offered no serious obstacle to the progress 
of the explorers. The soldiers halted midway, and took 
off their oppressive overcoats and wiped their red faces. 

The top of the mountain beyond the southern wall was 
about half the area of their own plateau, and, to the con- 
sternation of the three soldiers, in the very center of the 
tract stood a log house flanked by some tumble-down 
sheds. This unexpected discovery was so startling that 
they retreated below the bank for consultation. They had 
no doubt that the bees Philip had lined came from the 
hives of these people. If there were a bee-tree at aU, they 
would not be allowed to cut it. Lieutenant Coleman was 

265 



266 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

at first disposed to return without revealing themselves to 
the strangers. Their curiosity, however, was so roused, 
and their desire was so great to learn something of their 
neighbors, that the three soldiers crept back until only 
their heads were above the edge of the bank, and their 
wondering eyes fixed on the house. There might be 
women there, and from a sense of modesty each man got 
back into his old blue overcoat. They talked in husky 
whispers as they stared through the bushes, expecting 
every moment to see some one come out for a pail of water 
or an armful of wood. 

" There 's a man down there by the shed," whispered 
Philip ; and so timid of their kind had the soldiers become 
after seven years of seclusion, during which they had not 
spoken to a human being, that they ducked their three 
heads in a tremble of excitement. Presently Bromley 
looked again, and almost laughed out loud ; for the man 
was only a stump with something thrown over it that 
stirred with the wind. 

There was no smoke from the chimney ; but it was mid- 
way between breakfast and dinner, and fire was not to be 
expected at that hour in midsummer. There were no clothes 
hung out to diy, and no growing crops in sight ; but there 
were small stacks of corn-stalks at different points on the 
field, and these were in every stage of decay, from the 
conical heap overgrown with vines to the flat moimd of 
gray stalks through which the young chestnuts had 
sprouted and grown to a thrifty height. A forest of hop- 
vines grew over the eaves of the house, flaunting their 



THE DESERTED HOUSE 267 

green tendrils in the soft south wind, and giving an un- 
mistakably home-like air to the place. As no one appeared 
after an hour's watching, it was more than likely that the 
family was absent for the day or asleep inside. The 
longer the soldiers waited, the greater their curiosity be- 
came, and then they remembered their scarcity of food, 
and felt the gold coins in their pockets. It would be 
fooUsh to return without buying something from these 
neighbor-people. Their vow was not to go down from the 
mountain; and if they neglected this opportunity to 
supply their wants, starvation would soon drive them into 
the Confederacy, vow or no vow. 

Bromley, as usual, was the first to come to a decision ; 
and then all three climbed boldly out upon the bank and 
prepared to visit the house. As they advanced over the 
grass they buttoned their overcoats more closely about 
their throats, and jingled the coins in their pockets to keep 
up their courage. They looked down at their bare feet 
and legs, which naturally made them timid at the prospect 
of meeting women ; and so, huddled together for support, 
they crossed the dry chip dirt, and came around the 
corner of the house. The door stood open above the 
smooth stone step, and Bromley struck it with his knuckles, 
whiLe his comrades waited behind him, feeling instinc- 
tively, in their momentary embarrassment, for their collars 
and wristbands, which had never before been out of their 
reach in the presence of the other sex. If they had been 
less embarrassed they would have noticed the utter ab- 
sence of all signs of habitation outside the house, and that 

15 



268 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

the door itself was sagging inward from its rusty hinges. 
The interior was darkened by the sliding boards which 
closed the windows, and gave forth a musty, earthy smell. 

" There 's nobody lives here," said Bromley, in his strong, 
natural voice, at which Coleman and Philip were startled 
into a small spasm of feeling again for their shirt-collars ; 
and then, as he gave a kick to the lurching door, they 
dropped their nervous fingers and followed him in. Brom- 
ley opened one of the windows, which let in but a dim 
light because of the thick mat of hop- vines which had 
overgrown it. The first object that caught the eyes of the 
soldiers was a considerable library of books crowded to- 
gether on three shelves above the fireplace. 

Philip had his hand at once on the familiar cover of 
" Uncle Tom's Cabin " ; Bromley took down a faded volume 
of the "Anti-Slavery Record" for the year 1836; and 
Coleman went outside the door to examine a small book 
which bore in gilded letters on the cover, " The Branded 
Hand." On the title-page there was a woodcut of a hand 
with two S's on the open palm. The story w^s of the 
trial and imprisonment of Jonathan Waller, or Walker, 
at Pensacola, Florida; and a few pages on, the author 
was shown dripping with perspiration in the pillory. 
This book had been published in 1845, and Lieutenant 
Coleman dropped it on the door-step and hastened back 
to find something more modem. In fact, the three soldiers 
were moved by the same desire to find something— any- 
thing— that had been printed since the year 1864. So it 
was with the greatest disgust that they took from the lower 




THE DESERTED HOUSE. 



THE DESERTED HOUSE 271 

shelf and threw down, one after another, such ancient 
history as " Captain Canot ; or, Twenty Years of an Afri- 
can Slaver," 1854 ; " The Alton Riots," by Rev. Edward 
Beecher, 1838 ; " Abohtion a Sedition," 1839 ; "Memoir of 
Rev. Elijah P. Lovejoy," 1838 ; and " Slavery Unmasked," 
1856. There were other curious works on the same sub- 
ject, bearing equally remote dates. 

On the second shelf there was a mixed collection of thin 
periodicals in blue, yellow, and gray covers, such as " The 
Quarterly Anti-Slavery Magazine," "The Emancipator," 
and " The Slave's Friend," and several volumes of speeches 
by William Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Phillips, bearing 
date as late as 1858. 

The upper shelf was filled with small books and pam- 
phlets on temperance and prohibition, not one of which 
had been published since the year 1852. 

Lieutenant Coleman and Bromley were so keenly dis- 
appointed at finding among so many books nothing that 
threw any Light on the state of the country since their ar- 
rival on the mountain, that they were almost tempted to 
throw the library into the fireplace and burn it up by 
starting a fire with their fiints. 

The perfect order in which the books had been arranged 
was strangely in contrast with the otherwise wrecked con- 
dition of the room. The excitement of the soldiers on 
seeing the library had prevented them from noticing that 
the hearthstone had been wrenched from its original 
position, and that the earth had been dug out to some 
depth beneath it and thrown in a heap against the edge of 



272 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

the single bunk by the south wall. Stones had been pried 
fi'om the back of the chimney, and there was abundant 
evidence that some person had been hunting for treasure. 
The rusty spade with which the digging had been done 
lay in the fireplace, where it had been thrown by the baffled 
robber. The bedtick had been ripped open with a knife, 
and the straw with which it had been filled was scattered 
over the dry earth on the floor. The blankets and every- 
thing of value in the house had been carried away. It 
might be that murder had been committed here as well as 
robbery. As there was no stain of blood on the mattress 
or on the floor. Lieutenant Coleman concluded that the 
robber was only a cowardly thief who had stolen the 
property from the deserted cabin. It would seem, how- 
ever, that this man had had some knowledge of the dead 
mountaineer which had caused him to suspect that there 
was hidden treasure in the house. Possibly he had found 
what he sought. 

The discovery of the house and its contents was so star- 
tling that the soldiers forgot aU about the bee-tree they 
had come in search of. The absence of everything in the 
nature of food forced itself upon their minds, as they felt 
the coins in their pockets. There might be corn in one of 
the tumbledown outhouses. Both were sadly decayed and 
broken by the winds and storms to which the strong walls 
and good roof of the house had not yet yielded. The 
first shed contained a small heap of wood and a rusty ax, 
and the other appeared to have been used as a cow-stall. 

The paths were overgrown with grass, which indicated 



THE DESERTED HOUSE 273 

that years had passed since the place had been inhabited. 
The good order in which the books had been left led the 
soldiers to doubt if the place had been visited since the 
robber had gone away. It was true that the library was of 
a character that would be undesirable in a slaveholding 
Confederacy ; and if any one had seen it since the robbery, 
it was strange that he had not destroyed the objection- 
able books. 

This state of things was so puzzling to Lieutenant Cole- 
man and his comrades that they set out at once to make 
the circuit of this small tract on the mountain-top, which 
they naturally believed must be somewhat difficult of ac- 
cess. There must be a road that led to it. The robber 
might have climbed over the rocks, through some difficult 
pass, and so might the owner of the house ; but the cow-shed 
would make it seem that domestic animals had been driven 
up from the valley. The western front was the boulder side 
of the mountain, and as unapproachable here as on their 
own plateau. After the most careful exploration, the re- 
maining sides were found to be of the same character as 
the Cashiers valley side beyond the dividing cliff. This 
smaller tract of mountain-top was supported by sheer 
ledges which rose above the forest below. There might 
be some point in the wall where a man could scale it with 
the help of a long ladder, but it was evident that no cow 
had ever fed in that stall. 

It was past noon now, and the soldiers sat down on a 
rock in the mild sunlight which poured over the dividing 
ledge, and talked of the strange situation. 



274 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

" There have been human beings here," said Bromley ; 
" at least two of them : the fellow who lived in that house, 
and the robber who looted it. Now I am not much of a 
detective, but it is certainly our business to find out how 
they got here and how they got away." 

"How the robber got away," suggested Coleman; ''for 
there is no doubt in my mind that the man who lived here 
was his victim." 

" Yes," said Philip, " I am certain there was a murder 
committed here. Don't you see that if the murderer had 
carried off the books they would have been evidence against 
him sufficient to have convicted him of the crime ? " 

This view of Philip's was so plausible that the others 
adopted it. They assumed that the unfortunate victim 
had been shot in the open field, and buried where he fell. 
If the crime had been committed so long ago that the 
grass had found time to take root in the hard paths, it 
would have long since overgrown the shallow grave. Then 
it occurred to the soldiers, who had helped to bury the dead 
on more than one battle-field, that as time passes a shallow 
grave has a way of sinking. The murderer would have 
been careful not to raise a mound, and the very place of 
his crime should by this time be plainly marked by a 
long grassy hollow. 

They started at once to search for the grave ; but they 
were thirsty, not to say hungry, after their exertions of 
the morning, and so they went first to a spring which they 
had seen near the head of the path where they had climbed 
up. It was a large bubbling spring, and flowed under 



THE DESERTED HOUSE 275 

the rocks so nearly opposite to where the branch appeared 
on the other side that they knew it was the source of their 
own supply. It was not pleasant to think how easily their 
neighbor in his lifetime might have turned it in some other 
direction, thus stopping the wheels of their mill, and pos- 
sibly leaving them to perish of thirst. 

After they had lain down on the ground and drunk 
from the spring, they turned in the direction of the lonely 
house, flattering themselves that they were, after all, pretty 
clever detectives. By putting together the facts which 
they had now determined and proved, they had made a 
rather shrewd beginning at the discovery of a crime. 
They agreed, as they went along, that nothing further 
should be disturbed within or without the house until they 
should have unraveled the histoiy of the foul murder. 
That was, they believed, the method observed by the best 
detectives and coroners. They might not establish their 
theory to-day or to-morrow, but they could go and come 
by the new path they had found, and sooner or later they 
would force the secret from the mute objects in the midst 
of which the crime had been committed. 

As they arrived at this united and enthusiastic decision, 
they were approaching the house on the opposite side to 
that which they had passed on their first coming. The 
turf was so firmly rooted here that it was not easy to 
determine whether there had or had not been a garden 
on this side. A thick clump of young chestnut-trees 
had grown up since cultivation had been suspended, and 
as the three soldiers turned around these, they came 



276 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

suddenly upon something which exploded their fine-spun 
theories. 

It was nothing less than a grave with an uncommonly 
high mound above it, and marked at the head by a broad 
slab of oak. Besides the wild-rose bush which grew out 
of the matted grass on the mound, there was another ob- 
ject which staggered the soldiers more than the grave it- 
self. On the upper part of the headboard the following 
inscription was deeply cut : 

HERE 

REST THE BONES 

OF 

HEZEKIAH WALLSTOW 

ABOLITIONIST 

AND 

APOSTLE OF TEMPERANCE 

WHO DIED 

Here ended the letters, which were cut with a knife, evi- 
dently by the said Hezekiah himself, with the expenditure 
of much time and patience. Below, the inscription was 
continued with black paint, half written and half printed 
in one ungrammatical and badly spelled sentence : 

Hit was sumwhar betune 
April 26 & Juin the 4, 

1858. 

The other object, found lying across the grave, was the 
skeleton of the cow, whose crumpled horns were attached 



THE DESERTED HOUSE 279 

to the bleached skull, and whose white ribs provided a 
trellis for the rose-bush. Strangest of all strange things 
in this mysterious affair, one horn of the skeleton was 
hooked over the top of the slab so as to hold the great 
skull reversed close against the headboard on the side 
opposite to the inscription. Evidently the faithful crea- 
ture had died of starvation during the winter which fol- 
lowed the death of her master. By accident or through a 
singular exhibition of affection, she had lain down to 
die on the hard snow which was banked high above the 
grave, and as this melted the head of the cow had lodged 
in this remarkable position. 

"Well," said Philip, with a sigh for his pet theory, 
" whoever he was and however he came here, his name was 
Hezekiah WaUstow, and there was no murder after all— 
unless a third man came to bury him." 

" That 's all settled," said Bromley, resignedly ; " but 
how about the cow ? Did she come here in a balloon ? " 

'' My dear fellow," said Lieutenant Coleman, " we have 
not yet found how the men got here. When we learn that, 
it may make all the rest plain." 

Without entering the house again, the soldiers made a 
second circuit of the field, examining carefully every foot 
of the cliffs. They were absolutely certain now that there 
was no road or path leading to this smaller plateau except 
that by which they themselves had come ; and yet here 
were the bones of a full-grown cow and the ruined stall 
which had at some time been her winter quarters. They 
next examined the heaps of stalks, which were sixteen in 



280 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

number, and represented that many harvests; but the 
older ones were little more than a thin layer of decayed 
litter through which the grass and bushes had grown up. 
There might have been many others of an earlier date, all 
traces of which had long since disappeared. At first it 
seemed strange that a cow should have starved in the 
deepest snow in the midst of such surroundings. On a 
closer examination, however, it appeared that the tops of 
the two larger stacks had been much torn, and the stiff 
stalks cropped bare of leaves. It was plain enqugh that 
the lean cow had wandered here on the hard crust of the 
snow and scattered the stalks as she fed. Even now these 
could be seen lying all about in the grass where they had 
lodged when the snow melted. Under one of the stacks 
another skull was found, the owner of which must have 
died before the cow, or have been killed for beef. Instead 
of one, two domestic animals, then, had cropped the grass 
and switched at the flies on this plateau which was sur- 
rounded by inaccessible cliffs. How did they come there ? 

By sunset the soldiers were no nearer to a solution of 
this difficult problem, and so they filled their two pails 
with antislavery books, and returned to ponder and wonder 
in the society of the bear and the six sad roosters. 

They could sleep but little after such a day of excite- 
ment, and they were scarcely refreshed by their night's 
rest when they returned on the following day to the de- 
serted house. This time they left their overcoats at home, 
and took with them a loaf of corn -bread for luncheon, and 
the pails, in which they intended to bring back more books. 



THE DESERTED HOUSE 281 

They halted again before the oak slab bearing the name 
of Hezekiah Wallstow, apostle of temperance, etc., and 
crowned by the mourning skull of the cow, as if to as- 
sure themselves of the reahty of what they had seen, and 
then they walked humbly into the house. They could 
think of no guiding clue to start them in the solution of 
the problem of the cattle, and so they weakly yielded to 
their curiosity about the books. Bromley cut away the 
thicket of hop-vines which darkened the two windows, 
and in the improved light they fell to examining the 
coarse woodcuts of runaway slaves with their small belong- 
ings tied up in a pocket-handkerchief, which headed certain 
advertisements in the periodicals. ''The Adventures of 
Captain Canot " was a thick book with numerous illustra- 
tions of a distressing character. In one picture a jolly 
sailor with a pipe in his mouth was smilingly branding the 
back of an African woman, while another sailor stood by 
with a lantern in broad daylight. They hoped to find an 
account-book or a diary, but there was nothing of the sort 
on the shelves beyond one or two entries in pencil on a 
fly-leaf of the " Memoir of Rev. Ehjah P. Lovejoy," acknow- 
ledging the receipt of a cask of meal or a quarter of lamb. 




CHAPTER XXIII 

STARVATION 

[ OLLOWING their first visit, the three soldiers 
returned dui'ing four successive days to the de- 
serted house and the field surrounding it. By 
this time they had carried home the last of the 
books by pailfuls, making the long journey through the 
cave of the bats by torch-light ; but they had arrived no 
nearer to the solution of the riddle of the cattle. In fact, 
•so long as any part of the library remained where they 
had found it, they had come to wander hopelessly in the 
early morning along the ledges which upheld the smaller 
plateau, and then retire to the cool house to read. 

After the books had been removed by the soldiers to 
their own side of the dividing cliff, they found it so hard 
to leave them that they stopped at home for a whole week, 
reading by turns and worrying themselves thin about the 
bones of the cattle. They had abundant need at this time 
to keep their flesh and spirits, for two more of the nine 
sacks of corn had been ground in the mUl, and the pros- 
pect for the future was more dismal than ever. The end 

282 



STARVATION 283 

of this week of inaction, however, found the three soldiers 
in the early morning again standing by the deserted house. 

Lieutenant Coleman had a systematic, military mind, 
and, now the diverting books were out of their reach, he 
stated the problem to his companions in this direct and 
concise way : 

'' We know that two cattle have lived and died on this 
field." 

" Undoubtedly," replied Bromley and Philip. 

" We have examined three sides of the field, and found 
that the cattle could not have come from either of those 
dii'ections. Is not that so "? " 

" It is absolutely certain," said the others. 

"Therefore," continued Lieutenant Coleman, "they 
must have come by the fourth side." 

This conclusion was admitted to be logical ; but it pro- 
voked a storm of argument, in the course of which the 
soldiers got wild-eyed and red in the face. In the end, 
however, they consented to trim out the bushes which 
formed a thicket along the base of the ledge. It seemed 
to Lieutenant Coleman that they must find some passage 
here, and, sure enough, not far from the middle of this 
natural wall they came upon a low-browed opening, which 
presently narrowed down to a space not much more than 
five feet square. The farther end of this tunnel was closed 
by a pile of loose earth, which was spread out at the base, 
and had every appearance of having been thrown in from 
the other side of the ledge. The rusty shovel was brought 
from the fireplace of the house, and after a few minutes of 



284 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

vigorous digging, a ray of light broke through the roots 
and grass near the roof of the hole. The soldiers gave a 
wild cheer, and rushed out into the fresh air to cool off. 

" That settles it," said Lieutenant Coleman. " Hezekiah 
"Wallstow was the old man of the mountain, and after 
Josiah Woodring buried him he filled up this passage. 
The treasure he was searching for was the very cask of 
gold we dug out of the fake grave— thanks to the sacri- 
legious behavior of the bear." 

" But how about the cattle ? " said Bromley, still skep- 
tical. 

" Easy enough," said Coleman, triumphantly. " They 
brought two young calves up the ladders." 

This hitherto unsuspected passage through the ledge 
made everything clear. It had evidently been wide open 
during all the years the old man had lived on the mountain. 
It might have been screened by bushes so that any chance 
visitors, like the hunters who came over the bridge, would 
be easUy deceived, and not disposed to look farther than 
the ruined cabin and the non-committal gravestone. 

It was not strange that the three soldiers had never sus- 
pected that there was an opening here through the rocks, 
for a four-pronged chestnut had taken firm root in the 
grassy bank which Josiah had thrown up, and the old man 
had been dead six years when they first arrived on the 
mountain. How soon after the burial the passageway had 
been closed, it was not so easy to determine, but numerous 
hollows which were afterward found near certain trees and 
rocks on the smaller plateau made it look as if Josiah had 



STARVATION 285 

spent a good many moonlight nights in digging for the 
treasure before he gave it up altogether. According to 
the story of Andy, the guide, Josiah himself must have 
died soon after his strange patron, and most likely he 
closed the entrance to the passage in despair when he felt 
his last illness approaching. There was still much for the 
soldiers to learn about the motive of the hermit in bury- 
ing his surplus gold. The comforts with which he had 
surrounded himself would indicate that he was no miser, 
and his devotion to the cause of the slave made it extremely 
probable that he had willed his treasure to some emanci- 
pation society, which had not succeeded in reclaiming it 
before the war, and which, for plenty of reasons, had not 
been able to secure it since. 

After the soldiers had reopened the passage through the 
dividing cliff so that they could pass readily from one 
plateau to the other, they suspended further investigation 
and yielded to the luxury of reading, which had been de- 
nied them so long. The more they read of this peculiar 
literature from the library left by Hezekiah Wallstow, the 
more interested they became in the cause of the slave who, 
they believed, had been made free on paper by the impo- 
tent proclamation of Abraham Lincoln, only to have his 
fetters more firmly riveted than ever by the success of the 
Confederate arms. 

Among the other books there was one entitled '' Two- 
fold Slavery of the United States." This book had been 
published in London in the year 1854, and contained as a 
frontispiece a black-and-white map, which, so far west as 



286 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

it extended, was remarkably like the one which hung on 
the wall of their house. Philip shed new tears over the 
pathetic lives of Uncle Tom and little Eva, and Lieutenant 
Coleman and George Bromley grew more and more indig- 
nant as they read of the sufferings of the Rev. Elijah P. 
Lovejoy, and the self-confessed cruelties of Captain Carnot. 
However much the soldiers were wrought up by these 
books, it was left to the mass of pamphlets and periodicals 
to fill their hearts with an unspeakable bitterness toward 
the institution which the united efforts of their comrades 
in arms had failed to overthrow. 

It was evident that the old man had kept up some sort 
of communication by mail with the Boston abolitionists, 
and that his agent, Josiah, had yielded his views, if he had 
any, to a liberal supply of gold ; for up to the time of his 
death he had continued to receive these periodicals. As 
long as he received such dangerous publications, he must 
have maintained correspondence with their editors ; and 
the more the soldiers became imbued by their reading with 
the ideas which had made a hermit of Hezekiah Wallstow, 
the more certain they became that he had willed his money 
to the cause of abolition, or perhaps that he only held it 
in trust from the first. Otherwise, why should he have 
adopted so crafty a method of hiding it from Josiah? 
To speculate on the cunning of these two men became a 
favorite occupation of Coleman and Bromley when their 
eyes were worn out with reading. They were sure that 
every fresh lot of pamphlets had come, through the settle- 
ment and up the mountain, at the bottom of a cask of meal. 



STAEVATION 287 

The old man had no min or other means of grinding his 
com, which he must have cultivated for his cattle, relying 
upon Josiah for most of his food. Undoubtedly the very 
keg which the hunters had seen Josiah carrying up by 
moonlight, and which they believed was filled with whisky, 
contained seditious literature enough, if they had ever 
found it, to have put them to the unpleasant necessity of 
hanging the bearer to the nearest limb. 

So the soldiers continued to read, to the neglect of every 
other duty, through the entire month of August, except 
that Lieutenant Coleman made a brief entry in the diary 
each morning, and, when they were out of food, Philip 
laid by his book long enough to grind another sack of the 
corn. The few ears which had shown themselves on the 
plantation had been eaten green, and the yeUow and shriv- 
eled stalks which had escaped the grub at the root stood 
in thin, sickly rows. It was an off year even for the chest- 
nuts. When, in addition to this, it was found in Septem- 
ber that the potato crop had rotted in the ground, the 
reading was brought to a sudden end, and the soldiers 
found themselves face to face with a condition which 
threatened starvation, and that before the winter began. 
They remembered the bee-tree, and took up the line where 
Philip had left it, at the edge of the southern wall, only 
to find that the bees flew on to some tree in the forest 
below and beyond the plateau. 

When it was quite settled that they would have no sup- 
plies for the winter unless they bought them from the people 
in the valley with their gold pieces, as the old man had 

16 



288 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

done before them, they settled down to their reading again, 
foraging by turns for every edible thing they could find, 
and putting off the evil hour when they should be forced 
to reveal themselves. The more they read of these fiery 
periodicals the more they loathed their neighbors in the 
valley and shrank from communicating with them. They 
knew that these people in the mountains seldom owned 
slaves themselves ; but they felt that they were in f uU sym- 
pathy with all the cruelties of which the yellow-and-blue 
covered pamphlets treated. If the guineas in the hoard of 
Hezekiah Wallstow meant anything, they represented the 
proportion of the gold which had been contributed by 
antislavery societies in England ; and they began seriously 
to consider their moral obligation to return the entire sum 
to its rightful owners. In order to accomplish this just 
purpose, their lives must be preserved during the approach- 
ing winter, and seeds secured for another planting. After 
that, they would find means to replace with iron the gold 
they had used in the construction of the mill and of 
various domestic utensils ; and when the treasure was re- 
stored to the cask, they would find some way to open com- 
munication with the benevolent antislavery societies. 

By the end of October they had eaten the last of their 
meal. There were a few clusters of purple grapes on the 
vines, and to these they turned for food, still dreading to 
make any signs to their enemies, with a dread which was 
born of the pamphlets they were reading. For two days 
more they stained their hands and faces with the juice of 
the grapes, until an exclusive fruit diet, and meditation 



STARVATION 289 

day and night on the awful wickedness of men, weakened 
their bodies and began to affect their minds. 

The dread hour had finally come, and they could no 
longer delay making signs of their distress. To this end 
they collected a pile of dry wood, and heaped it on the 
point of rocks, in full view of the settlement of Cashiers. 
It was growing dusk when everything was ready to start 
the fire, and Philip had come from the house with a lighted 
torch. At the moment he was about to touch it to the dry 
wood, Bromley snatched the torch from his hand and ex- 
tinguished it in the dirt. Coleman and Philip tried to 
prevent this rash act of their comrade, and in their excite- 
ment gave free expression to their anger; but Bromley 
stamped out the last spark of the fire without paying any 
heed to their bad language and frantic gestures. 

'' Are you mad ? " he then cried, retreating a little from 
what threatened to be an assault. " What do you think 
will be our fate at the hands of these people, when we 
are found in possession of such books as we have been 
reading"? We should be imprisoned like Lovejoy, or 
branded like Walker. We might pay with our lives for 
your recklessness to-night." 

Philip and Coleman were shocked at the danger they 
had so narrowly escaped, and thanked Bromley for his 
forethought and prompt action. 

Of course they must bury the books, but they would 
have all of the next day to attend to that ; and with many 
expressions of thankfulness they returned to the house and 
crept into their bunks. When morning came they were 



290 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

weak and hungry, with nothing whatever to eat ; but in 
spite of all this they heaped the antislavery books and 
pamphlets on the earthen floor, carefully separating them 
from the works on temperance. They had come to regard 
these books as little less than sacred, and they naturally 
shrank from burying them in the ground. Happy thought ! 
—there was the cave of the bats. So, packing them into 
the pails, the soldiers carried the books in two toilsome 
journeys by torch-light to the middle of the cavernous pas- 
sage, and laid them carefully together on the stone floor. 
They were well-nigh exhausted by this exertion ; but after 
a rest they found strength to close the entrance with 
brush and earth, and to cover their work with pine-needles. 

Half famished as Lieutenant Coleman and his comrades 
were, they could only drink from the branch and wait pa- 
tiently for night. The poor old paralyzed rooster, sitting 
in the chips by the door, looked so forlorn and hungry 
that Philip set him out among the dry weeds, and lay down 
on the ground beside him, so as to be ready to turn him 
about and set him along when he had plucked the few 
seeds in his front. As for the bear and the five crippled 
roosters, they shambled and hobbled about, and shifted 
bravely for themselves. 

There were still many things to consider as to how they 
would be received by these people, and what success they 
would have in exchanging United States gold pieces for 
food and clothing. Perhaps they would be obliged to buy 
Confederate notes at ruinous rates of exchange. Perhaps 
their visitors would confiscate their gold pieces at sight. 




THE BEACON FIKE. 



STARVATION 293 

and take them down the mountain as State prisoners. 
They must keep some coins in their pockets for barter, 
which was their object in summoning their dubious neigh- 
bors ; but it would certainly be prudent to conceal the bulk 
of their money. So the last thing the soldiers did on this 
November afternoon was to dump the gold that remained 
in the cask into a hole in the ground, and cover it up. 

As soon as it began to grow dark on the mountain they 
set fire to the pile of wood, which was presently a great 
tower of flame, lighting up the rocks and trees, and form- 
ing a beacon which must be seen from valley and moun- 
tain for miles around. At that hour, and in the glare of 
their own fire, they could see nothing of its effect in the 
settlement ; but they were sure it would be watched by the 
families outside every cabin ; and in this belief they moved 
about to the right and left of the flames, waving their arms 
in token of their distress. 

Surely a fire on this mountain-top, where no native had 
set foot for seven long years, would excite the wonder of 
the people below. It could be kindled only by human 
hands, and they would be eager to know to whom the 
hands belonged. 

In the morning the three soldiers crept out to the smol- 
dering remains of their fire, which was still sending up a 
thin wi'eath of smoke. On the distant road through the 
valley they could see groups of tiny people, evidently 
watching and wondering. They could come no nearer 
than the bridgeless gorge, and so, weak as the soldiers 
were, after making every effort to show themselves in the 



294 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

smoke, they made theii* way to the head of the ladders and 
climbed down to the field below. Philip stopped behind 
to run up the old flag on the pole ; for, whatever effect 
that emblem might have on theii* neighbors, they were de- 
termined to stand by their colors. They found a few 
chestnuts and dried berries in the old field, which they 
devoured with wolfish hunger as they crept along toward 
the gorge. 

They hoped to see human faces on the opposite bank 
when they arrived ; but there was no one there to meet 
them. They were not greatly disappointed, for it was still 
early in the day, and the people had a much longer jour- 
ney to make from the valley. There was the same old-time 
stillness on that part of the mountain : the tinkling brook 
in the bottom of the gorge, and the soughing of the wind 
in the tops of the tall pines on the other side. There were 
still some sticks of the old bridge wedged in the top of 
the dead basswood— the bridge which had served the old 
abolitionist in his lifetime, and the destruction of which 
had served the purpose of the soldiers equally well. 

The mild November sunshine lay bright on the faded 
landscape, and the soldiers sat down on the diy grass to 
await the coming of their deliverers. If one of the tall 
pines had been standing on their own side of the gorge 
they would have used their last strength to cut it down and 
fell it across the chasm. They had put on their old blue 
overcoats, to make a decent appearance before the people 
when they arrived ; but hour after hour crept slowly by, 
and nobody came except Tumbler, the bear, who had backed 



STARVATION 295 

down the ladders and shambled across the field to join 
them. By the sun it was past noon when he came, and as 
he seated himself silently in the gloomy circle, he made 
but a sorry addition to the anxious waiters. Why did no 
one come to their relief ? They knew that their fire had 
been seen where the presence of a human being would be 
regarded as little less than a miracle by the dwellers in the 
valley. What if they had accepted it as a miracle alto- 
gether, and avoided the place accordingly? They were 
ignorant people, and therefore superstitious ; or else they 
were as cruel and heartless as they were described in the 
" Weekly Emancipator." 

The rustling wind in the tree-tops, and the occasional 
tapping of a woodpecker in the forest beyond, became 
hateful sounds to their impatient ears. Bromley, who was 
the strongest of the three, and the more indignant that 
no one came to their relief, wandered back upon the old 
field, where he found a few more chestnuts, which he di- 
vided equally with his half-famished comrades. Every 
mouthful of food helped to keep up their strength and 
courage, and now the slanting rays of the afternoon sun re- 
minded them that they must repeat their signal, and that 
no time was to be lost in gathering wood for another fire. 
There was still hope that relief woidd come before dark, 
and Philip was left to watch with the bear, while Coleman 
and Bromley returned to the plateau. 

The postmaster in the Cove might be less superstitious, 
they thought, or less hard-hearted than the people in the 
valley. If their strength held out they would have two 



296 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

fires that night. No chance should be neglected. As Cole- 
man and Bromley dragged together a few dead limbs upon 
the edge of the great boulder, they hoped that the post- 
master had found the remains of the telescope, as they 
knew he had found the army blanket which fell from the 
balloon, so that when he saw their fire he would connect 
it, in his mind, with the other objects which had come 
down from the mountain. 

It was after sunset when Philip and Tumbler appeared 
on the plateau. No one had come even so far as the gorge ; 
and Philip helped to carry the last of their wood to the 
rocky point where the blackened embers of the first fire 
lay in the thin ashes. Coleman and Philip remained to 
kindle this beacon, while Bromley went to the Cove side 
with a lighted torch and a bundle of fat pine-knots. When 
Bromley saw the first smoke of the other fire across the 
ridge, no light had yet appeared in the windows of the 
small post-ofiice. Moreover, with his strong eyes he was 
sure he saw some object moving along the road in the di- 
rection of the office. He waited a little, waving his torch, 
and then he appKed it to the dry leaves and sticks at the 
base of the pile, which flashed quickly into a blaze. Brom- 
ley was not content to move about in the light replenish- 
ing his fire, but, as often as a fat pine-knot had become 
enveloped in flame, he separated it from the pile and poked 
it over the edge of the great smooth rock, to flare against 
the black storm-stains as it fell, and perhaps to start a new 
fire in the Cove bottom. A brisk east wind was blowing 
across the mountain, which carried the smoke and sparks 



STAEVATION 297 

over the long roof of the post-of&ce. Bromley remained 
late at his work ; but at last his strength and his wUl-power 
yielded to the weakness that comes with hunger. An 
overpowering drowsiness compelled him to leave the fire 
and go stumbling over the hill to the house, where he found 
Coleman and Philip already asleep. 




CHAPTER XXIV 

THE RESCUE 

■HEN the three soldiers awoke on the morning 
which followed the kindling of the two fires, 
Philip was too ill to leave his bunk, and Lieu- 
tenant Coleman and Bromley were too weak to 
drag themselves as far as the rocks where the embers were 
still smoking. The sun was shining on their United States 
window, and when they looked out at the door, the old flag 
of thirty-five stars was floating bravely on the fresh wind. 
" Three cheers for the stars and stripes, and for Sher- 
man Territory ! " cried Bromley, and the weak cheers so 
exhausted the two men that they sat down on the wooden 
bench in a state of collapse. Faint as they were from 
hunger, they were still fainter from thirst, and after a mo- 
ment's rest they staggered over to the branch and drank 
their fill of the cool water, and laved their feverish faces 
in the stream. They brought a cup of the water to Philip, 
who lay quietly in his bunk, and was altogether so weak 
that they were obliged to hold him up while he drank. 
" There, there," said Coleman, as they eased him back 

298 



THE EESCUE 299 

on his pillow. "You must keep a good heart, for some 
one will surely come to us to-day." 

Philip looked brighter for the draft of water, but he 
only smiled in reply. The sun was warm outside, but the 
act of drinking, while it had greatly revived and encour- 
aged Coleman and Bromley, had so chilled their starved 
bodies that they put on their overcoats and buttoned them 
up to the throat. They could do no more in the way of 
calling for help than they had already done. Men had died 
of starvation before, and it might be their fate to perish 
of hunger, but they had a strong faith that the fires they 
had built for two nights on this uninhabited mountain 
would bring some one to their relief. They regretted now 
that the reading of the abolition books had influenced them 
to delay so long their appeal for help. To reach them 
their rescuers must fell one or more of the taU pines across 
the bridgeless gorge, but they were too weak to go down 
the ladders, and what wind there was blew across the 
mountain in the direction of the gorge, so that they would 
not be able to hear the sound of an ax a mile away. Time 
had never dragged so slowly before. The sun lay in at the 
open door, and by the marks they had made on the floor, as 
well as by the shadows cast by the trees outside, they could 
judge closely of the hour. They could hardly believe that 
it was only ten o'clock in the morning, when it seemed as if 
they had already passed a whole day in vain hope of relief. 

It was such a terrible thing to await starvation in the 
oppressive stillness of the mountain, that Bromley, almost 
desperate with listening, went to the branch and hung the 



300 THE LAST THREE SOLDIEES 

bucket on the arm of the old Slow-John, which presently 
began to pound and splash in its measured way. Dismal 
as the sound was, it gave them something to count, and 
relieved their tired ears of the monotonous flapping of the 
flag and of the rustling of the barren corn-stalks. 

They talked of the old man who had died alone on the 
other plateau. He, too, might have died of starvation. 
There were no signs of food in the deserted house when 
they had discovered it. They had never thought of it be- 
fore, but his cunning agent might have been a villain after 
aU, He might have grown weary at last of lugging casks 
up the mountain by moonhght, and getting the old man's 
gold by slow doles. He must have had some knowledge 
of the treasure for which he dug so persistently afterward, 
and in his greed to possess it he might have deliberately 
starved the old abolitionist. They thought of Hezekiah 
WaUstow burning beacon-fires in his extremity, when 
there was a good bridge to connect the mountain-top with 
the valley, and yet he was left to die alone. The thought 
was not encouraging to Coleman and Bromley in their 
weakened, nervous condition, and tended to make them 
more than ever distrustful of the natives to whom they 
had appealed. 

They withheld these disturbing suspicions from Philip, 
but the more they pondered on the subject the more they 
were convinced of the barbarity of the Confederates, and 
of their determination to leave them to their fate. 

Lieutenant Coleman wi-ote what he believed to be the 
last entry in the diary. It was November 7, 1871 ; and 



THE RESCUE 301 

on the prepared paper of the book which treated of deep- 
sea fishing, he stated briefly their starving condition and 
their fruitless efforts to summon relief. They still had the 
tin box in which the adamantine candles had been stored, 
and into this Bromley helped to pack the leaves of the 
diary, already neatly tied in separate packages, and labeled 
for each year. If he had had a little more strength he 
would have carried it to the forge, and sealed the cover of 
the box which contained the record of their lives. As it 
was, they set it on the mantelpiece under the trophy formed 
of the station flags and the swords and carbines, and laid 
a weight on the lid. 

After this was accomplished. Lieutenant Coleman lay 
down and turned his face to the wall, and Bromley seated 
himself on the bench outside the door, too stubborn to give 
up all hope of relief. The warm sun lighted the chip dirt 
at his feet, and seemed to glorify the bright colors of the 
old flag as it floated from the staff. He forgot his desper- 
ate situation for a moment, as his mind turned back to the 
battle-days when he had seen it waving in the sulphurous 
smoke. It gave him no comfort, however, to think of his 
old comrades and the dead generals and the cause that was 
lost ; and when his eyes fell on the ground at his feet, he 
tried to keep them fixed on a tiny ant which came out of 
a crumbling log. The small thing was so full of life, dart- 
ing and halting and turning this way and that ! Now it 
disappeared under the log, and then it came out again, 
roUing a kernel of corn by climbing up on one side of the 
grain, to fall ignominiously down on the other. Bromley 



302 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

was just about to pounce on the grain of corn and crush 
it between his teeth when he heard a sound on the hUl, 
and, raising his eyes, he saw two men coming on toward 
the house. They carried long bird-rifles on their shoulders, 
and to his starved vision they looked to be of gigantic size 
against the sky. 

He could only cry out, " Fred ! Fred ! Here they come ! " 

These electric words brought Coleman's haggard face to 
the door, and even Philip turned in his blankets. 

The strange dress and wild appearance of the two sol- 
diers clinging to the door of the house, and the fantastic 
effect of the afternoon sun on the stained-glass window, 
as if the interior were on fire, so startled the strangers 
that they lowered their rifles to a position for defense, and 
turned from the direct approach, until they had gained a 
position among the rustling corn-stalks in front of the 
door. The various buildings and the evidence of cultiva- 
tion on the mountain-top staggered the visitors, and the 
haggard faces of Coleman and Bromley led them to believe 
that they had come upon a camp of the fabled wild men 
of the woods. They had never seen a stained-glass window 
before, and to their minds it suggested some infernal 
magic, so the two valley-men stood elbow to elbow in an 
attitude for defense, and waited for the others to speak. 

" Come on, neighbors," said Bromley, holding out his 
empty hands. " We are only three starving men." 

One of the valley-men was tall and lank, and the other 
was sturdily built ; and at these pacific words of Bromley 
they advanced, still keeping close together. 




•HE COULD ONLY CBY OUT, 'FiJEDl FB£D! HEBE THEY COlIEl' 



THE RESCUE 305 

" We don't see but two/' said the stout man, coming to 
a halt again. "■ Where 's the other one at ? " 

"He 's too weak to get out of his bunk," said Lieuten- 
ant Coleman. "For God's sake, have you brought us 
food?" 

" That 's just what we have," said the rosy-faced stout 
man, who came on without any further hesitation. "We 've 
brought ye a corn-pone. We 'lowed there might be some 
human critters starvin' up here." With that he whisked 
about the thin man, and snatched a corn-loaf from the 
haversack on his back. 

" How did you-all ever git here ? " said the thin man. 
" Hit 's seven year since the old bridge tumbled into the 
gorge." 

There was no reply to this question, for Bromley was 
devouring his bread like a starved wolf, while Coleman 
had turned away to share his piece with Philip. 

The eagerness with which they ate seemed to please the 
two valley-men, who were willing enough to wait a reason- 
able time for the information they sought. It was a fine 
opportunity to give some account of themselves, and the 
rosy-faced man made good use of it. 

" We 're plumb friendly," he said, " and mighty glad we 
brought along the bread, ain't we, Tom ? Might n't 'a' 
done hit if hit had n't 'a' been for my old woman insistin'. 
She 'lowed some hunter fellers had got up here and could n't 
git down ag'in, and she hild fast to that idea while she 
was a-bakin' last night, time your fire was a-burnin'. Hit 
certainly takes women folks to git the rights o' things, 



306 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

don't hit, Tom 1 My name is Riley Hooper, and this yer 
friend o' mine is Tom Zachary, and we 're nothin' if we 
ain't friendly." 

Poor Philip was unable to swallow the dry bread, and 
Coleman came to the door with the golden cup in his hand, 
and begged one of the men to bring a cup of water from 
the branch. Tom Zachary hurried off on this mission of 
mercy. 

" Hit 's a wonder," he exclaimed, when he came back 
with the dripping cup, " that you-all ain't been pizoned 
afore this, drinkin' out o' brass gourds. That 's what ailed 
Colum. Long time he had the greensickness. But his 
woman was cookin' into a brass kittle, and that might 'a' 
made some difference." 

The two men now pressed into the house to see Philip, 
and Bromley, whose hands were at last empty, and whose 
strength was fast returning, came after them. 

'' I 'm jist nacherly put out," said Hooper, when he saw 
the condition of Philip, '^ that I did n't bring along some- 
thin' to warm up a cold stomic. Poor feller ! Say, where 's 
your f ryin'-pan at ? I 'U fix a dose for him. Here, Tom, 
wake up. Fill this skillet with water out o' the branch, 
'thout no flavor o' brass into hit"; and as he spoke he 
whisked Tom around again, and took the haversack from 
his shoulders. "No, ye don't," said he to Bromley, who 
came forward for more bread. " No, ye don't, my boy. 
I 've viewed starvin' humans afore. What you want to do 
is to go slow. A dose o' gruel is jest the ticket for this 
yer whole outfit." 



THE EESCUE 307 

The rosy-faced man was too busy witli the fire and the 
gruel, and too eager to improve the condition of the men 
he had rescued, to ask any disturbing questions ; and Tom 
Zachary was so considerate, in the presence of actual star- 
vation, that he seated himself on a three-legged stool, and 
stared at the stained-glass windows and the flags and the 
curious map on the wall. It was just as weU that Bromley 
had removed the golden casters, years before, from the 
legs of the stools, when they were found to make ruts and 
furrows in the earthen floor. Tom Zachary would have 
been more astonished than ever if he had found himself 
rolling about on double-eagles. 

When the hot gruel had been served, Philip was so much 
revived as to be able to sit up on the edge of his bunk. 
If it was delicacy that stni prevented the visitors from ask- 
ing questions, it was a dread of overwhelming bad news 
that sealed the soldiers' lips. They had become so settled 
in their convictions, and so confii-med in their strange 
blindness, that they shrank from hearing the mortifying 
particulars. So the five men sat staring at one another, 
each party waiting for the other to begin. 

" Sojer coats," said the lean man, nudging his companion. 

" And cavalry guns and swords," said the rosy-faced one, 
casting his eyes on the trophy. 

"And my affydavid," said the taU one, "if them ain't 
the reg'lar old signal-flags— one, two, one." 

Lieutenant Coleman was thankful that his visitors had 
said nothing disagreeable thus far, but he feared every 
moment that they would make some insulting remark 

17 



308 THE LAST THREE SOLDIEES 

about the old flag, which they could see through the door- 
way. 

Bromley restrained himself as long as he could, and 
then, in reply to the three mild observations, in which he 
thought he detected a shade of sarcasm, he exclaimed : 

" Well, what of it ? We are not ashamed of our uniform 
or of our arms." 

" There ain't no reason why ye should be, my buck," 
said the rosy-faced man. " Soldierin' is as good a trade 
as any other," 

'' Hit 's better 'n some," said the tall one. 

" Gentlemen," said Lieutenant Coleman, who began to 
fear more personal remarks, ''you have saved our lives 
to-day. We shall never forget your kindness, or cease to 
feel ourselves youi* debtors. You see our destitute condi- 
tion. We need food for the coming winter, and seed for 
another year, for which we are able to pay ; and if you 
know who owns this mountain-top, we shall be glad to 
arrange, through you, to buy it." 

'' Well, now, I '11 be gormed," said the rosy-faced man, 
" if he ain't a thoroughbred as soon 's he gits fed up a 
little. Wants to buy these yer rocks, does he ? Tom, who 
do you reckon owns this mounting ? " 

" Dunno," said Tom, with a gi'in, " if you don't." 

"Well, I do," said Hooper, expanding himself with an 
air of proprietorship, " and there hain't nobody never dis- 
puted my title to this upper kentry." 

" Are you willing to sell it ? " said Lieutenant Coleman. 



THE RESCUE 309 

" I '11 sell anything I 've got," said Hooper, looking more 
rosy and smiling than ever, " so I git my figger." 

" Very well," said Coleman. " If we take the mountain- 
top from the deep gorge up, at what price would you value 
it?" 

" Well, now," said Hooper, '^ if you really mean business, 
this yer track ain't worth a fortun'. Timber-land in these 
parts brings a dollar an acre when hit brings anything. 
Rock-land like this, without no timber onto hit, is worth 
fifty cents; but, considerin' the improvements and the 
buildin's," he continued, " I reckon seventy-five would be 
dirt-cheap. Hit ain't ever been surveyed, but I 'low there 's 
two hundred acres above the gorge." 

Lieutenant Coleman already had his hand in the pocket 
of his canvas trousers, and, bringing out two double-eagles, 
he handed them to the rosy-faced proprietor as a first pay- 
ment. Hooper jumped up from his seat and took the two 
yellow coins in his hands, and chinked them together, and 
tossed them about as if he feared they might burn his 
palms. 

"Durned if hit ain't United States gold money, Tom," 
he exclaimed, passing one of the coins to Zachary, who 
was equally excited. "We hain't viewed that kind o' 
money for seven years in these parts, have we, Tom ? " 

Tom indorsed his companion's statement in pretty 
strong language, and Lieutenant Coleman hastened to say 
that if the money was not satisfactory, they could probably 
agree upon some rate of exchange. At this point of the 



310 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

conversation, the two mountaineers exchanged some words 
in a whisper, and the soldiers believed they were agreeing 
upon the discount between United States and Confederate 
money. To fill up this awkward break in the conversa- 
tion, Lieutenant Coleman began again to express his 
gratitude to his rescuers. 

"Now, hold on, captain," exclaimed Hooper, facing 
about. "Whatsoever me and Tom has done, we have 
done willin', and nobody willin'er, and we 're goin' to 
stand by ye to the end ; but we ain't goin' no further in 
this business till you tell us how ye got here. The way we 
study hit out, you ain't treatin' me and Tom fair." 

" Pardon me, my good friends," said Lieutenant Cole- 
man. " I had no intention of being rude. We came here 
in the summer of 1864, in the line of our duty as Union 
soldiers, and w^en the war ended with the success of the 
Confederates—" 

" What ! " cried the two men together, gasping in amaze- 
ment at what they heard. " And the Union was destroyed," 
continued Lieutenant Coleman. " And the Capitol feU into 
the hands of the Confederates." "And slavery was re- 
stored," exclaimed Bromley. "And the flag was disgraced 
and robbed of its stars," put in PhiKp, with such voice 
as he could command. 

The two mountaineers stood open-mouthed for a 
moment, and then they burst into peals of laughter. 
"Whoop!" cried the rosy-faced man, slapping his leg 
and throwing his wool hat on the floor as if it had been a 
brickbat. " If that ain't the jolliest thing I ever heard, 



THE RESCUE 311 

and hit 's kind o' serious-like, too ! Why, men, there 
ain't no Confederacy. Hit 's the old United States, from 
Canada to the GuK of Mexico, and from the Atlantic 
Ocean clear across to the Pacific." 

" And General Sherman—" gasped Philip. 

" He 's gineral of the army up in Washington right now, 
and Gineral Grant is President," cried the rosy-faced man. 

Somehow the interior of the house grew vague and 
misty, as if a sea-fog had swept in through the windows. 
Everything and everybody danced and reeled about, until 
the soldiers fell away from the embrace of their deliverers, 
quite exhausted by the excitement and the news they had 
heard. 

While all this was going on, Philip lay back on his 
blanket and shed tears of joy over the wonderful news. 
In fact, there was n't a dry eye in the room. Even the 
eyes of the men from Cashiers glistened with moisture, as 
they vied with each other in discharging facts, like can- 
non-balls, into the ears of the astonished soldiers. They 
gave them a rough history of the end of the great war, of 
the tragic death of Lincoln, and of some of the events 
which had since taken place in the United States. 

" There were thirty-five stars on the old flag when we 
came here," cried Lieutenant Coleman. 

" And there 's thirty-seven now," said Hooper. 

" Thirty-seven ! " repeated the soldiers, looking at one 
another through their tears. " Thirty-seven ! " 

The soldiers ate some more of the bread from the 
haversack, and with renewed strength went out into the 



312 THE LAST THKEE SOLDIERS 

afternoon sunlight, Coleman and Bromley supporting 
Philip, and all five sat down under the old flag. And 
as they sat there together like brothers, the soldiers 
told the others why they had fii'st come to the mountain, 
and the bad news they had got by flag, and the resolution 
they had made, and aU that had come of it. And when 
they had done speaking, Tom Zachary, whose face had 
grown longer and sadder as he listened to their story, said 
he had something to tell them for which he hoped they 
would forgive him. 

" I was only a boy in the war-time," said Tom, " and I 
lived with my kin-folks in a settlement at the foot of the 
tenth mountain. Gineral Thomas commanded the Home 
Guard brigade, with headquarters at Quallatown, in the 
Cherokee kentry, and he had signal-flag men like you-all, 
and 'mongst the rest there was one named Bud Bryson. 
Now Bud was mighty peart, and he boasted as how he 
could study out any cipher that ever was made, if only he 
had time enough. So when the gineral heard that there 
was a Yankee station on that mountain, he sent Bud with 
a spy-glass, to make out the cipher and read the telegrafts 
for him. Many 's the day I stayed out on the South Ridge 
with Bud, and wrote down the letters as he read 'em off, 
and, turn 'em which way we would, we could never make 
head or tail of 'em. It was a-z-q-j-g and such fool let- 
ters, and after two weeks' hard work Bud Bryson was no 
nearer to makin' sense of the letters than when he begun, 
though he did always say that if they had only give him 
time he would 'a' studied out the trick. 



THE RESCUE 313 

" But the gineral got tired o' waitin' on Bud, and one 
day he sent a squad of fifteen cavalry soldiers to capture 
the stations. The soldiers started up the mountain in the 
early mornin', with Bud to guide 'em and give 'em points. 
I went up with the rest, just to see the fun, and when we 
got to the top, the soldiers rushed in on two sets o' men, 
sawin' the air with their flags and sendin' messages both 
ways. Lieutenant Swann was the officer's name, a big 
red man, and mighty mad he was when the soldiers took 
him. They searched him from head to foot, and 'mongst 
the papers on him they found the secret cipher Bud had 
been workin' for. 

" What with guardin' the prisoners and the prospect of 
capturin' more, fifteen troopers was too scant a crowd to 
divide into two squads, and so the captain ordered Bud to 
stay on the mountain and give the stations ahead enough 
news to keep 'em quiet until he come back. 

" That game suited Bud mighty weU, and havin' nobody 
to help him, he made me stay with him to take down the 
letters. We had the camp just as they left it, with plenty 
o' rations and coffee to drink such as we had n't tasted for 
years, and every time Bud looked at the flags he burst out 
laughin'. Hit was somewhere near the end of July when 
we took the mountain, and that same afternoon Bud begun 
to figger the letters of his first message crooked accordin' 
to the cipher, and git hit ready to send on. ' Tom,' he says 
to me with a grin, *I reckon we better kiU off Gineral 
Sherman first,' and then he laughed and rolled over on the 
blankets. 



314 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

"Next mornin' he sent the message, and when the tele- 
graft come back to know if the news was true, he sent 
word hit was, ' honor bright,' and signed the lieutenant's 
name, 'James Swann.' Hit was three weeks before the 
squad got back from Chattanooga way, and all the time 
Bud kept sendin' lies about great Confederate victories. 
He was keerful what he sent, too, and figgered on the 
dates, and kept aU the messages he had sent before wrote 
down in order, so he would n't get mixed. When we got 
all ready to leave Bear Clift, which was the tenth station, 
Bud flagged an order to hold on— that relief was comin'. 

"Now, after we started east, we picked up a station 
every mornin' ; and as soon as Bud got his hands on the 
flags, he begun to lie more than ever, closin' up the war 
with a dash. We had over fifty prisoners when we took 
the three men off from Upper Bald, and there havin' been 
six on every other station, we nat'rally thought we had 
found the last; and the cavalry went away with their 
prisoners to Quallatown." 




CHAPTER XXV 

CONCLUSION 

''TER the straightforward story of Tom Zach- 
ary, which explained the cunning method by 
which Lieutenant Coleman and his comrades 
had been deceived by the flag-messages, the 
soldiers could feel no resentment toward Tom. They 
were so happy in the possession of all the good news 
they had heard that they would have shaken hands with 
Bud Bryson himself, if he had been one of their rescuers. 
''Now I reckon," said the rosy-faced man, as he got on 
his feet to go down the mountain, " considerin' the way 
things has turned out, you-all won't keer about investin' 
in property in this upper kentry, and I '11 give ye back 
your money," he continued, looking fondly at the two 
yellow coins. 

Coleman and Bromley, however, insisted that a bargain 
was a bargain, and that they wanted the land more than 
ever. They should go away, they said, the next day if 
Philip was able to make the journey; and Lieutenant 
Coleman pressed another coin upon Hooper, for which he 

315 



316 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

was to bring them a supply of clothing which they could 
wear as far as Asheville. 

It all seemed like a dream to the three belated soldiers 
when their visitors had gone ; but Bromley, who was the 
more practical, reminded his comrades that the antislavery 
societies must have been long since disbanded, and that 
the gold was theirs by the right of discovery. So, after 
making a supper of the corn-bread from the haversack, 
Coleman and Bromley fell to work with a will, stripping 
the mill of its golden bands and hinges and hasps ; and 
late into the night the windows of the forge glowed and 
beamed, and the ruddy firelight streamed out through 
the cracks in the logs, where Bromley, the goldsmith, was 
smelting and hammering the precious metal into bars, and 
beating into each, while it was soft, the impress of a 
double-eagle, reversed. 

When all the gold was packed in the very cask in which 
they had found it, and so wedged and padded with leaves 
of the temperance books that it no longer chinked when 
it was moved, a book-cover was nailed on the head, and 
the package was addressed to " Lieutenant Frederick 
Henry Coleman, U. S. A., Washington, D. C." 

The tin box containing the diary, and the flags and 
swords and such books as they wished to keep, were 
gathered together and packed for transportation. 

By noon of the following day the two mountaineers 
appeared again, looking like old-clothes men as they came 
over the hiU. 

When the three soldiers got out of their tattered cloth- 




'•THEY LOOKED HAKDLY LESS COMICAL THAN BEFORE.' 



CONCLUSION 319 

ing, and into the butternut-and-gray suits which had been 
borrowed for them from the neighbor folk in the settle- 
ment, the misfits were such that they looked hardly less 
comical than before. Philip was the first to appear from 
the house ready for the descent. His hat was a bell- 
crowned beaver, his trousers were turned up half-way 
to his knees, and he carried in his hand the alligator- 
skin bag which had belonged to the beautiful lady of the 
balloon. 

After they got down the ladders, Coleman carried the 
cask as far as the gorge, resting at intervals, but never 
permitting the two mountaineers to test its weight or even 
suspect its contents. Philip and Bromley divided between 
them the flags and sabers, the remaining carbine, the map, 
and the tin box containing the diary. Hooper and Zachary 
were occupied with the six sad roosters, and Tumbler, the 
bear, ambled along behind the men as they picked their 
way down the mountain. It was really a perilous journey 
along the rough trunk of the great pine which lay across 
the dark chasm, but Bromley shouldered the cask, and 
walked over as steadily as old Tumbler himself, and, ar- 
rived on the opposite side, he set it on end in the tail of 
the steer-cart, which was hitched to a sapling alongside 
the very rock on which Andy, the guide, had been 
seated when he told the story of the old man of the 
mountain. 

The tall pines were whispering together in the soft wind 
as unconcernedly as if it had been seven days instead of 
seven years since the soldiers had stood on that spot be- 



320 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

fore, and the tinkling stream below was still chinking on 
its way like silver coins in a vault. 

At first Philip mounted the seat beside Tom Zachary, 
and took charge of the fowls jolting in a yellow, croaking 
mass between his feet, except the old paralyzed rooster, 
which he carried tenderly in his lap. He was too excited 
to ride, however, and presently he got down and walked 
with the others. At every stage of the descent the soldiers 
were learning new facts about the war, which made their 
return to the United States a triumphal and delirious 
progress. By the time they reached the hill-pastures, 
where they were greeted by some of the very same copper 
bells that had startled the cavalcade going up, they began 
to be joined by the people who had heard of their dis- 
covery. They came in twos, and threes, and whole fami- 
lies, to swell their train, so that when they turned into 
the sandy road through the valley they were attended by 
a joyous procession of curious followers, which steadily in- 
creased until the cart, with the bear shambling alongside, 
came to a stand by the woodpile of Elder Long, misnamed 
Shifless. Philip took off his bell-crowned hat right and 
left to the women ; and Lieutenant Coleman greeted Aunt 
Lucy, who leaned on her crutches at the gate among the 
pui'ple cabbage-heads, with the stately courtesy he had 
learned at West Point. 

Riley Hooper mounted the woodpile, and announced, 
with a merry twinkle in his eye, that he and Tom had 
captured the "harnts" that had been "doin'" the ghost 
business so long on old Whiteside ; at which Aunt Lucy 



CONCLUSION 321 

glared through her spectacles as if the remark were a 
personal affront to her, and the elder exclaimed fervently, 
" May the Lord's will be done ! " 

When presently the mail-carrier came along in his one- 
horse gig, Lieutenant Coleman wrote a hurried despatch 
to the adjutant-general of the army, announcing the relief 
of his station, and the cask containing the treasure was 
committed to the carrier's charge, to be sent on by express, 
as if it were only the commonest piece of luggage. 

When the sun disappeared behind the mountain, usher- 
ing in the long twilight in the valley, the crowd was still 
increasing, and one of the last to arrive was the old post- 
master from the Cove. When he came the soldiers and 
their deliverers were seated with the elder's family about 
the supper-table in the kitchen, where the neighbors lined 
the walls and filled the doors and windows, eager to hear 
more of the life on the mountain. 

The great round table itself excited the soldiers', sur- 
prise ; for, besides being covered with a gaudy patchwork 
of oilcloth, it was encircled at a lower level with a narrow 
ledge which held the plates and cups and knives and forks, 
while the great center was loaded with smoking loaves of 
corn-bread, platters of fried chicken, bowls of potatoes, 
jugs of milk, and pots of fragrant tea. 

Room was made for the postmaster at the hospitable 
board, and after the elder had said grace standing, he 
invited everybody to help himself, at the same time giving 
the table a twirl which sent the smoking dishes and the 
flaring tallow dips circling around on an inner clockwork 



322 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

of creaMng wooden wheels. It was altogether such a 
bewildering and unexpected movement that Philip nearly 
fell out of his chair, and even Bromley, who had just laid 
a piece of corn-bread on the edge of the oilcloth, dropped 
his knife as he saw the bread sail around until it rested in 
front of the postmaster, very much as the blanket had 
fluttered down from the balloon. 

After the supper was over, and aU the neighbor folks 
had been satisfied, eating and drinking where they stood, 
Lieutenant Coleman, speaking for his companions, related 
such incidents in connection with their life on the moun- 
tain as he chose to disclose. He ended his long story by 
presenting the bear to Riley Hooper, and the six sad 
roosters to Tom Zachary, with a sum of money to pay for 
their keeping. The library of abolition books he presented 
to Elder Long, telling him where he would find it in the 
long cavern. 

"Hit 's plumb quare," said the postmaster, after Lieu- 
tenant Coleman sat down. " Did you 'ns ever drop sech 
a thing as a spy-glass ? " 

''We did indeed," said all three of the soldiers to- 
gether. 

" An' mighty well battered an' twisted hit was," said the 
postmaster. *' I found hit 'mongst the rocks a spell after 
the blanket landed front o' my door, an' I always 'lowed 
hit fell out o' the balloon." 

The soldiers laughed. 

"I come drefful nigh comin' up thar in '69," said the 
postmaster. "Say, strangers," he continued, dropping 



CONCLUSION 323 

his voice, "tell me true; did you 'ns ever view the harnt 
up yonder ? " 

" We never had the pleasure," said Lieutenant Coleman. 

" That 's quare, too," said the postmaster, " an' you livin' 
thar seven year; fur I viewed hit, an' no mistake, that 
winter afore I 'lowed to come up, a-gyratin' an' cavortin' 
on the avalanche in the moonlight, the same bein' the 
night afore hit fell." 

Bromley sat back in his chair, and laughed aloud. 
''Here 's the 'harnt' you saw," he exclaimed, slapping 
Philip on the shoulders. 

" No, no ! " cried the postmaster, getting onto his feet 
with a scared look in his face. "Yer funnin' with me, 
stranger, fur no human could 'a' got thar whar I viewed 
the harnt." 

"But he did," said Bromley; and then he described 
how Philip fell, and how he got up again. " By the way," 
continued Bromley, looking around, " is the young woman 
present who used to live alone in the house under Sheep 
CM?" 

At this question some of the neighbor women pushed 
forward a tall, stoop-shouldered girl with a sallow face, 
who struggled to avoid the gaze of the soldiers. 

" What fur ye want 'o know ? " she said in a sullen voice, 
still pushing to get back to her place against the wall. 

" Oh, nothing," said Philip ; " only we used to see you 
through the telescope." 

The soldiers and the family sat for a time in silence 
after the most of the neighbors had gone. 



324 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS 

" Well, I declare/' said the postmaster, giving a twirl to 
the creaking table which caused the last guttering candle 
to approach him in a smoky circle, " how things do come 
round ! " 

The light reddened the postmaster's face for an instant, 
and gleamed on his glasses, as he blew out the candle and 
pinched the wick. 

And so ends the history of the three soldiers who re- 
mained in voluntary exile for seven years, and were hap- 
pily rescued at last. 



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